Have you heard the song I’ll Be Home for Christmas on the radio this holiday season? Did you start channeling the original Bing Crosby rendition from 1943 made popular during World War II? This popular song came from the viewpoint of a deployed Soldier. Being away from home during the holidays is tough whether you have 10 years or 10 weeks in the Army.
This year, cadre of the 198th and 192nd Infantry brigades and the 194th Armored Brigade are making the song a reality for 4,806 Fort Benning Soldiers in training. Executing holiday block leave is the decisive operation for the month of December.
Delivering nearly 5,000 Soldiers to all 50 states, as well as territories and foreign countries, is a feat that could boggle Santa’s elves — coordinating the chaos that includes hundreds of POVs, the Atlanta airport, multiple commercial airlines and Greyhound buses in less than 12 hours.
Successfully executing this operation takes months of detailed planning and coordination with agencies on and off post.
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The Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation’s own travel agent, Omega Travel, burned the midnight oil to produce itineraries to get the Soldiers home and back inside the mandated time constraints so training may resume.
Representatives from the MCoE, TRADOC headquarters, Greyhound, Capital Trailways and the Atlanta airport also helped prepare for the mission. This year the mantle of responsibility was borne by the 500 strong cadre of the 198th Infantry Brigade. Before taking time off, the leaders of the 198th must ensure they get all Fort Benning initial entry trainees out the door properly.
For nearly all the trainees, this is their first Army leave.
Items such as ID cards, a copy of the DA Form 31, sign-out procedures, and staff duty contact phone numbers are new to them.
These basics, along with leave and travel advances for some, are just a few of the things the Soldiers must master as they become members of the Army.
Courtesies and expectations were reiterated from all levels so that the Soldiers make a good showing while enjoying their time away from training.
Command Sgt. Maj. Roger Parker, 2nd Battalion, 58th Infantry Regiment’s senior NCO, told the Soldiers the name tape worn over their left pocket “U.S. Army” means they are now ambassadors of the Army, that America will watch to see if their actions reflect the Army values.
As the old poem ’Twas the Night Before Christmas goes, once the trainees were gone, the cadre could settle their brains for a short winter’s nap.