While most people enjoy some time away from work during the holidays, future soldiers currently in basic training aren’t guaranteed that opportunity. However, tens of thousands of soldiers-in-training were elated to discover that they too would be able to spend some of the holidays with their families, thanks to the efforts of drill sergeants and other military leaders.
Thousands of recruits training at the largest Army basic training post, Fort Jackson, South Carolina, were able to head off on Victory Block Leave beginning a week before Christmas, and are not scheduled to return until after the New Year.
The post’s drill sergeants and other members of the leadership team assisted in organizing the mass exodus, getting the future soldiers home by plane or rail, through the nearby city of Columbia, South Carolina, or bussing them to the airports located in Atlanta, Georgia, and Charlotte, North Carolina.
One drill sergeant confirmed that the process began weeks ago, including multiple trips to the post’s ticketing office.
Pvt. Emily Haddleton, 24, was thrilled to find out she would be able to spend Christmas in her hometown of Redding, California, the Army Times reported.
“I was actually shocked and very surprised, and grateful that we get to go home for the Christmas break,” said Haddleton. “It does make sense though, because I don’t think the drill sergeants want to be here, training us on Christmas day either.”
Before the recruits were able to leave, they had to take part in holiday safety briefings.
“They have to make sure they maintain good physical fitness,” said Staff Sgt. Domenic Buscemi. “And we try to prevent, or try to talk them out, of using illicit substances.”
Haddleton confirmed that the future soldiers aren’t allowed to consume alcohol, adding, “but, unfortunately, drill sergeants know they can’t stop everyone.”
Diving safety was also discussed during the briefing because, according to Haddleton, “if you get home or you get a ticket or traffic violation, or you get caught drunk driving, it can ruin your military career.” She added, “So, go home and have fun over the holidays, but make sure that you’re safe.”
Haddleton also stated, “They did warn us that right when we get back, we’ll be taking a urinalysis.”
The drill sergeants are prepared to have some extra work on their hands when the recruits return.
“They go away, and they forget some of that stuff, and they forget that they are a soldier. But, generally, they retain a lot of the stuff,” said Buscemi. “You see a pretty good success rate of them going and then coming back recharged.”