COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Thousands of soldiers-in-training are heading home for the holidays on Wednesday morning and those departures will continue throughout the afternoon.
6,834 soldiers are taking part in what’s called the Fort Jackson Victory Block Leave, which is a two-week break from Basic Training to spend time with family and friends for the holidays.
Fort Jackson transportation planners have been working over the last several months to ensure a smooth departure Wednesday for the thousands of soldiers who will travel home by plane, bus, train, and in some cases by car with family members.
The soldiers-in-training began piling onto several commercial buses – in single file – at around midnight on Wednesday before heading to the airport for a much needed and well-deserved break from training.
“These past six weeks have been challenging mentally and physically but our drill sergeants really make sure to keep us motivated,” Fort Jackson trainee Margarita Frando said. She also says that she doesn’t get to communicate with her family as often as she would like to, which is why this trip home means that much more. “We don’t get that much time to write letters, but when I do, I make sure to jam-pack it all with everything I’ve got and I just can’t wait to see them.”
The soldiers will not have to return until Jan. 3.
“It feels really good to actually go home because I haven’t seen my parents, family, friends – all that – in a while. Letters help, but it’s only so much until you start to feel actual homesick and there’s nothing that really helps more than actually seeing the ones that you care about,” Fort Jackson trainee Jeffrey Stickels said.
The soldiers will be boarding flights from the Columbia Metropolitan Airport, and about half will fly out of Charlotte Douglas International.
Keep in mind that military personnel in training for all services are heading home for the holidays on Wednesday. So, officials say if you’re traveling by plane, expect longer wait times.