The Army is the only branch of the military that honors the Christmas Exodus break for all recruits who are in basic training and AIT. Basically, the Army shuts down all of its training schools during exodus to allow their drill sergeants and instructors to have a break at Christmas.
The exodus break generally starts a week before Christmas and lasts until a week after Christmas. The dates vary every year depending on how Christmas falls that year. Soldiers have the choice of whether to take the break. If they choose not to take the break, they can remain at the training school doing grunt work on most days.
Even if a soldier doesn’t have enough leave time saved up to take the break, and most won’t, the Army will allow him to go in the hole in order to take advantage of this time. In many cases, this means he will not have leave time available for quite some time after graduation and arriving at his first duty station.
The cost to travel for exodus falls to the soldier. The transportation office on post can arrange travel for those who need it. In fact, family members are discouraged for booking airline tickets or other transportation without first talking to their soldier. Many times, the Army will arrange this for the soldier to make transporting soldiers to the airport easier. You also have the option of picking up your soldier in person if you live close enough to where he is training.
It is important to note that he must be back on time when exodus ends. In fact, it is to his advantage to arrive early. The instructors will not care if there were transportation issues, delays, etc. Make sure there is time built into the travel plans to handle any scenarios that may arrive.
Each year during the Christmas and New Year holiday season, CASCOM AIT schools, at Fort Lee; Fort Eustis, Virginia; Fort Sill, Oklahoma; Fort Leonard Wood, Kansas; Eglin Air Force Base, Florida; and Fort Jackson, South Carolina, conduct Holiday Block Leave (HBL) to give military students and cadre downtime.
“Based on the time of year Soldiers join the Army, Holiday Block Leave is the first break students get during initial military training,” said Col. Marc Thoreson, assistant commandant, U.S. Army Quartermaster School. “It is very important, not only for the Soldier, but also the family members and friends of the Soldiers to share in the holiday spirit.
“It allows the Soldiers to decompress, increase morale, and enhance resiliency, allowing them to complete their rigorous training with a renewed spirit,” the colonel said.
HBL allows new Soldiers, many away from for the first time, to take a break for the holidays before either returning to complete their initial military training or heading to their first duty assignment.