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FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — Dear teammates and families, the U.S. Army puts people first, and part of that is providing Holiday Block Leave for our workforce, families and aspiring Soldiers and service members.

Having time away from work to safely connect with loved ones is essential, even vital, this year. However, our behaviors during block leave must be different than in years past while our nation and the world respond to COVID-19.

It is imperative we use the techniques that have proven most successful in containing the spread of the virus: washing hands correctly, wearing a mask properly and ensuring six feet of physical separation from others. In addition, avoid crowded areas and locations known to have high infection rates — comply with all laws, regulations and military orders.

Remember that a high level of fitness is essential to readiness. My battle buddy, Command Sgt. Maj. Randolph Delapena, and I strongly encourage building strength in each aspect of fitness — physical, mental and spiritual — every day.

Unless you are of legal age, do not partake in alcohol; for those of legal age, we strongly discourage the excessive use of alcohol, tobacco and vape products. Do not use illegal substances, including but not limited to non-prescribed medications and marijuana in any form. In short, stay away from anything that negatively impacts your holistic health, fitness and ability to serve.

If you are struggling in any way, please do not hesitate to ask for help. Command Sgt. Maj. Delapena and I will be checking on one another; we must all be good battle buddies. Remember your commitment to service and to our Profession of Arms as you enjoy the holidays.

Do not jeopardize your health or Army readiness with any illegal or unsafe acts.

Seat belts are required for drivers and passengers; driving while or after drinking is illegal and deadly; and driving while distracted or fatigued is extremely dangerous. Weather and road conditions can change quickly. In all activities, plan ahead and mitigate risk.

We appreciate family members helping us reinforce these good habits because we want everyone to return safely next year — recharged and ready to contribute.

The leadership team at Fort Leonard Wood wishes you an enjoyable holiday break. Please make it a safe one. We look forward to seeing each of you again in the New Year.