FT. SILL, Okla._ More than 4,000 soldiers will leave post over the next two days to spend the holidays with loved ones.
The annual Block Leave is a day many have been looking forward to for a while, some even keeping a countdown, but tonight the clock ran out and the thousands of soldiers will scatter out across the country.
"I need this break," says Private Tarrance Bryan, 434th Field Artillery Brigade, who is seven weeks into his basic training at Ft. Sill.
"It's everything because I miss food, I miss personal time, I miss my boyfriend and my mother," says Private Lily Cortez, giggling in excitement. "I am ready to feel loved again and not told what to do."
Colonel Mike Dvoracek says this two-week leave builds up his soldiers' morale.
"We've had lots of rules for them here and they're getting ready to go be able to make decisions on their own and see family and see friends," says Dvoracek, who says planning for their departure begins in July. "It takes that kind of detailed coordinated planning over time to make sure that you can get all those moving pieces together."
He calls Block Leave "organized chaos" – making sure everyone's there, getting them the bus and plane tickets they need to get home, checking their bags and briefing them on what they can and can't do while they're away.
The colonel says they'll be given more freedoms. They probably won't be told when to turn their lights off for bed, but he tells all his trainees keeping up with physical fitness is important to the success of their basic training completion when they return.
"They got to come back fit, healthy, and prepared…," the colonel says.
More than 150 basic trainees will remain on post through the holidays, but they will still get a break and get to participate in a variety of holiday activities.
All soldiers return to post Jan. 2.