FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — Trainees with Company B, 795th Military Police Battalion, lined up the morning of Oct. 20 at Davidson Fitness Center, to finalize travel itineraries with family and friends and purchase bus and airline tickets for the annual Christmas through New Year’s Day Holiday Block Leave.
Like last year, HBL ticketing for the thousands of trainees here was moved from the Army and Air Force Exchange Service Mini Mall — where Leisure Travel Services is located — to DFC to allow for better social distancing.
According to Aaron O’Donoghue, LTS manager, the goal is to find the most affordable travel options possible for the trainees.
“Our goal is to get them the cheapest rates to make sure these trainees can take their leave,” he said. “Other than the trainees getting that break, it’s a good chance for the drill sergeants and the companies to be able to take that time during the holiday period as well.”
O’Donoghue said unlike in 2020, the Waynesville-St. Robert Regional Airport is once again a travel option.
“This year, they’re able to fly out of Forney Airfield to Chicago and then on to other locations from there,” he said. “They can also be picked up by family and friends; there are charter buses going to multiple cities; or they can fly out of St. Louis.”
Staff Sgt. Charles Noell, a Bravo Company drill sergeant, was on hand to make sure his trainees were able to complete their HBL travel arrangements. He said he appreciates the great job O’Donoghue and his team do every year.
“The travel office organized a great space to do this,” he said. “They separated the trainees into groups based on what they need and it’s moving along very well.”
One of the first trainees in the company able to finalize his travel plans for the holidays was Pvt. Wyatt Horstman, who plans on spending HBL at his parents’ house in Illinois.
Instead of flying there, Horstman said he decided to take one of the charter buses.
“I was told it would be a lot cheaper and I get home a whole day earlier, so I decided to take the bus instead,” he said.
Horstman said he looks forward to spending time with his family, “and probably eating some junk food that I probably shouldn’t eat.”
For Pvt. Nathaniel Payton, and his younger brother, Pvt. Noah Payton, training to become MPs in the same company has been a lot of fun.
“It’s a really cool life experience we get to do together,” Nathaniel said.
The two Payton brothers are planning to start their HBL travel from Lambert St. Louis International Airport.
Noah called the HBL ticketing experience “quick and efficient” and added he looks forward to spending time with his whole family over the holidays.
“Everybody always gets together at the holidays,” he said.
O’Donoghue said the LTS office in the Mini Mall will remain open for business from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday while HBL ticketing operations continue at DFC, though he stressed that service members who need to arrange travel for emergency leave or leave in conjunction with a permanent change of station should do so at DFC — hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Everyone at LTS enjoys ensuring the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines get where they want to go for the holidays every year, O’Donoghue said.
“It’s a team effort and we all love to see the smiling faces on the days and nights of departure,” he added. “I’m happy we can help get these service members connected with their friends and families.”