christmas exodus for soldiers

Army Training Exodus During The Holidays

If you’re reading this, I’m sure it is with two important questions in mind:

1- What is it?
2- Will he get it?

What is Christmas Exodus?

Christmas Exodus (or a mass holiday break), put simply, is a break for the holidays. This break only applies to soldiers who are in a training program, not when they have been assigned to their unit.

It is generally about one week before Christmas and continues until a few days after New Year’s. The days for your soldier may vary depending on how the holidays fall.

How Does My Soldier Get Home?

If you are close enough to where he is training, you can pick him up in person. If not, the Army will help to arrange for his transportation home.

Be aware that this time off will count against his leave time; if he’s in basic training, he will go in the hole. If you’re like most, you couldn’t care less as long as it means you’ll get to see him. I mention it because we had to skip one of his block leaves to make up for the days.

My Experience with Exodus at Ft Moore (formerly Benning)

I was close enough to Ft Benning (what it was still called when he was there) to be able to drive over and pick up my husband. Please remember that this is MY experience, and yours could vary depending on which base he is at and who his drill sergeants are.

I was so very nervous about seeing him again. Would he have changed? Would he think I had changed? Would things still be the same? I felt like I was going on a first date. I was excited and giddy, with butterflies in my stomach.

I got to Ft Benning the night before, so I could be there bright and early (as early as they would allow) to pick him up. I don’t know why I even paid for a hotel room; it’s not as if I slept a wink that night.

Picking Him Up on Sand Hill

We were told to go to their barracks on Sand Hill to pick them up. I arrived at 8 a.m. to pick him up, but it was closer to 9 a.m. before he arrived at my car.

I was about the 15th car in line. A line that grew to an untold number as the magical hour rolled around to pick them up to go home.

The DS approached my car, asked me for his name, and radioed in to send him out. He came walking towards me in his Class A’s, long black jacket (that I have never seen him in since), a newly shaved head, and BCGs.

Um…BCGs? LOL

Now for those of you who are unfamiliar with BCGs, be thankful. Be very thankful!

These are the most hideous framed glasses I’ve ever seen in my life. And for my blind as a bat, usually contact lens-wearing husband (at least then), the lenses were seriously Coke bottle thick.

My once handsome husband was now not so much, haha. They are referred to as Birth Control Glasses for a reason! Thank goodness for PRK and LASEK, courtesy of the Army. He was able to get that surgery after his first deployment.

And because of those glasses, I didn’t even recognize my husband until he was about five feet away from me. He had warned me there couldn’t be any PDA when I picked him up, but he did sneak in a quick hug before we got in the car.

But I didn’t get my kiss until he couldn’t see the barracks anymore.

I asked him if he wanted to do anything in Columbus before we left, and he looked at me like I was crazy and said no, let’s go home. I think he was ready for his bed.

Countdowns Never End

Those two weeks were great for us! Although it was very hard not to be on a countdown – I was constantly thinking, “Only xx days until he goes back.”

I didn’t even want to sleep when he was home because it felt like we were wasting time that we could spend together…even though he was still right there. Crazy, I know!

Of course, I’ve been on a constant countdown in one form or another since he joined the Army (until he deploys again, until he comes home, etc.), so I guess, looking back, it was a little prep for the future.

Taking Him Back to Sand Hill

It was very hard to take him back. He had to be dropped off at the reception center by 23:00. When we got there, I parked at the far end of the parking lot.

The DSs were outside with all of the guys lined up who were already back, and they were barking orders. Right back to training mode.

We said “good night” (we never said goodbye when he was in the Army – call me superstitious), and I’m pretty sure I cried the entire way home.

A New Batch of Soldiers Leaving for Exodus

A few years after my husband had his Christmas Exodus, we happened to be returning from a vacation through the Atlanta airport on the day that exodus started.

There were soldiers and Drill Sergeants everywhere you looked. I kept jokingly telling my husband he should go chat up the DSs – I again got a look that told me he thought I was crazy.

It was very late at night, and the DSs were still there making sure all the soldiers made their flights, so rest assured, he’ll find his way back home to you.

author avatar
Stacey Abler
Stacey's husband joined the Army in 2003 and was medically retired after four deployments. She enjoys sharing her experiences and expertise around Army life while continuing to support Army spouses and families in their military journey.

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29 Comments

  1. My boyfriend leaves Nov. 7 for Basic. I’d love to know the answer to your question Michelle: is it better for him to stay there for Christmas break. He has to be at his AIT post the day after graduation so does it even matter?

  2. My Fiance Leaves April 2nd For Basic And Right After He Graduates There He Is In AIT Until October 25th.. Im Not Ready To Be Apart That Long. Its Hard Not To Count Down When He Leaves. We Are Supposed To Get Married Before He Leaves For Basic But Im Scared Im Going To Miss Him So Much And That When He Comes Home We Will Be Different. 🙁 Oh Boy. Im So Nervous. I Love This Man.

  3. Hello my husband just left for basic training to Fort Benning GA, on Nov 04,2014.
    I know it’s still early to know but my question is if he’s getting the chance to come home for Christmas. Am pregnant and am do on the 30th of December so i really pray for him to see our daughter being born. Besides waiting for the packet and he’s letters is there any other way i can find out if he’ll be able to make it?

    1. During training, they are given roughly two weeks off during Christmas. It’s generally the week before and after Christmas. Hope all continues to go well with your pregnancy!

    2. They usually have a Facebook page with a lot of information for the family. My husband just graduated and we are here spending thanksgiving on base because he ships out to AIT tomorrow. Best of luck to your family.

  4. How did you all get this information already? My husband left on the 27th and I haven’t heard from him since he finished reception and arrived at basic at ft jackson. No letter or anything, I’m super worried that all these other resources people have heard from their soldier. Any recommendations???

  5. My fiancé started basic on November 17 2014 and I am trying to find out when the Christmas excudus is?

  6. Thank you for all the help! I am extremely new to military life and this page has helped out. My boyfriend got shipped out November 4th for basic training and he will be able to come home to our beautiful daughter and I for HBL from December 18th to January 2nd.

  7. I will be arriving to AIT about one month after my Fiance. We were planning on having a courthouse wedding during exodus, is this allowed? Im hearing a million different things

    1. Exodus is essentially a 2 week break where you’re basically on your own. So as long as you can plan it during that time and get the license, etc, it shouldn’t be a problem.

  8. After Christmas Break do you take him back to the recruitment center to ship him to AIT?
    Or do I need to buy him a ticket and take him to the airport myself?

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