JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas —
This holiday season, COVID-19 restrictions may have prevented many of Joint Base San Antonio’s military students from traveling home to be with family and friends, but whether staying in town or traveling, the students could depend on the 502nd Logistics Readiness Squadron to ensure they arrived where they needed to be.
For the students able to go home for the holidays, the 502nd LRS’s Ground Transportation teamed with the 502nd Force Support Squadron Information, Tickets and Tours, and the 37th Training Wing, as well as sister-service technical training units across JBSA, to schedule transportation bus support for thousands of technical training students to San Antonio International Airport during Exodus 2020, said William Cope, 502nd LRS bus contract supervisor.
“The ITT office sold tickets to the students and provided ground transportation with the numbers needing transport, along with travel dates and times, allowing us to build a schedule to provide a safe and orderly departure,” Cope said.
To help ensure students staying behind still had a joyful holiday, 502nd LRS Ground Transportation supported the 502nd FSS and USO San Antonio by providing entertainment options, such as trips to amusement parks, event venues, and landmarks, as well as several on-base events.
“This allowed students to celebrate and enjoy the holidays in San Antonio, while also enjoying some critical social interaction with others,” Cope said.
“Alleviating social isolation plays a big part in mental and emotional health during the trying times of not being able to celebrate with family during the special moments of the holiday season,” said Heather Krauss, executive director of USO San Antonio.
“The USO is dedicated to providing programming in order to enhance resiliency by creating impactful moments of holiday joy for those who cannot travel this year and will be spending the holidays with their military family, battle buddies and fellow service members,” she said.
“USO Countdown to Christmas is a traditional USO San Antonio program offered annually for those students remaining here during the holiday block leave,” she said. “This programming is focused on days full of fun events to keep trainees connected, engaged, and feeling appreciated in order to best celebrate the holiday season."
Each day provides trainees with not only activities, but meals, holiday treats, goodies, giveaways, and most importantly, camaraderie, Krauss said.
This year’s activities included private events in which the student population could enjoy activities together in an environment that kept them safe throughout the evolving safety regulations of COVID, Krauss said.
“We have learned how to pivot and sift in a moment’s notice in order to continue to provide direct service for those that need it,” she said.
One especially popular event this year was the day at the movies, which included private double-features in an actual theater.
There was also a Christmas eve brunch with Santa and gingerbread house decorating contests, Christmas Day at SeaWorld, bowling, laser tag, and gaming events, a rollercade day, a bingo and game tournament day, and a scavenger hunt and burger burn on New Year’s Day.
“This year all of our events were carefully planned in order to follow all CDC, local, and installation guidelines to keep our service members safe through this unprecedented time,” Krauss said. “No one likes being away from family, friends, and traditions for major holidays, and we are happy to serve the mission of the USO, strengthening America’s military service members by keeping them connected to family, home and country, throughout their service to the nation, and especially during the holidays.”
Throughout this year’s USO activities, 502nd LRS kept extra busy ensuring the safety of the students as well.
“Moving large groups of passengers in the middle of a pandemic presented several challenges,” said Todd Deane, JBSA Ground Transportation manager, said. “However, we implemented proven safety precautions, such as routine sanitization of the buses, to reduce risk and ensure the safety of everyone involved.”
Deane hopes America’s newest military members had a fun and safe holiday.
“The 502nd Logistics Readiness Squadron takes great pride in providing support to our multi-service students, who celebrated the holidays away from their family and friends,” he said.
(Editor’s note: The mention of non-federal organizations is simply informational and not intended to imply endorsement by the U.S. Government, the DOD, or the U.S. Air Force.)