For the first time in 10 years, Sgt. Brandon Robinson is spending Christmas at home, with all of his family, in Fayetteville.Robinson, his father and his older brothers are all in the military, and it’s rare for their time off to overlap so everyone can be home for Christmas.“My mom is ecstatic,” he said, surrounded by a crowd of soldiers and volunteers at Charlotte Douglas International Airport on Friday.The 32-year-old sergeant was overseeing thousands of new soldiers as they made their first trips home from training at Fort Jackson, which is 90 miles south of Charlotte, near Columbia. The trek through the Charlotte airport is part of an annual event facilitated by the USO of North Carolina, a nonprofit military support organization.
US Army Basic Combat Training centers and One Station Unit Training centers shut down over the holidays. That’s not so much for the benefit of the trainees. Rather, it’s pretty much the only time the training cadre can take a two week block of leave.
But if all the drill sergeants are on leave, who will supervise the thousands of raw recruits?
Well, if you ship them home for two weeks, you don’t have to. Of course, the trainees haven’t been in the Army long enough to accumulate 14 days of leave. Troops accumulate 2.5 days of leave per month, or thirty per year. So the Army “loans” them some leave.
That means their first six months or so of service after Basic are spent paying back that “in the hole” leave.
Your humble scribe didn’t go through this. Our OSUT schedule had a couple days and a couple non-critical events trimmed from the schedule so we could graduate on 12 December, 1985. But what that meant was, our gaining unit didn’t want to see us until 2 January, 1986 (hey, regular units also like to take the holidays off).
That meant your host ended up taking 21 days of leave. Having accumulated somewhere between 5 and 7.5 days, we spent, like others, a good bit of time getting out of the hole.
Of course, given that we were on just a two year assignment to Hawaii, and it was atrociously expensive to fly home, we simply didn’t take leave at all during that tour.