Thousands of U.S. Army soldiers packed the world’s busiest airport on Sunday morning as they prepared to recharge at home for holiday block leave.
Over 4,000 soldiers traveled through Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport to go home after spending several weeks training at Fort Moore.
Many soldiers haven’t been home with their families for three months.
“I’m most excited to spend time with my siblings,” said Private Dominic Ovesen to Fox News. “I have six of them. So, [I’m] putting time aside for each of them — as well as my dog, especially.”
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Pvt. Ovesen, like many others whom Fox News spoke with at the airport, said this break in training is a chance to reset and process everything learned so far in training.
Specialist Glenn Brown, another soldier going through training at Georgia’s Fort Moore, echoed a similar sentiment.
“It’ll be good to see the family and have time to reset, relax with family — and get some good old food when I get back home,” said Brown.
Nationwide, more than 38,000 soldiers from 21 Army bases will participate in holiday block leave, according to the U.S. Army.
Army leaders say the break is essential to their training.
Said Major General Curtis Buzzard, “It’s just great for their morale … They’re going to get to go home and see their families. And then I think when they come back, they’re recharged and ready to get after it.”
“I’m tremendously proud of the young people who have chosen to serve.”
Buzzard is commanding general of U.S. Army Fort Moore and The Maneuver Center of Excellence.
In terms of what the soldiers have accomplished so far, he said, “I’m tremendously proud of the young people who have chosen to serve. There are other things they could have done, but they’ve chosen to serve their country, and they’ve chosen to make themselves a better person.”
He added, “We have tremendous values in the military that they’re going to learn and become a part of. They’re going to be part of something, not just in something.”
Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Mitchell Payne was the main man behind this weekend’s massive operation, which was a collaboration between Army leaders, the United Service Organizations, Atlanta airport staff, Delta Air Lines and more.
But Lt. Col. Payne said an overlooked benefit of holiday block leave is with the drill sergeants.
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He said, “it’s equally helpful for them to have a chance to step back, reset for themselves, see the family — and then get back after it.”
Staff Sergeant Chris Roberts is the senior drill sergeant overseeing the trainees.
For him, he said he’s “looking forward to spending time with the family, the wife and the kids.”
When asked what it means to be a drill sergeant, Staff Sgt. Roberts answered, “One of the most rewarding things … is you can see the transformation from civilian to soldier at the end of the 22 weeks. It’s an amazing experience to have.”
Not everyone flew home though for holiday block leave.
The families of roughly 1,300 other soldiers at Fort Moore picked up their loved ones at the Army base on Saturday.
Whether they drove or took to the skies to go home, all soldiers will be back on base to resume their training on Jan. 4, 2024.
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