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NEWS | Dec. 21, 2023

More than 2,800 MEDCoE trainee Soldiers take advantage of Holiday Block Leave

By Jose E. Rodriguez U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence Public Affairs

Soldiers from the U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence packed the San Antonio International Airport in the early morning of Dec. 21 as they checked baggage and passed through security checkpoints to catch their flights home for the holidays.

Holiday Block Leave is an important annual event that allows Soldiers in Advanced Individual Training on Joint Base San Antonio the opportunity to take leave and spend the holiday season with their families and loved ones.

More than 2,800 trainees and students from the 32nd Medical Brigade, the training brigade attached to MEDCoE, began leaving San Antonio on Dec. 20, with the bulk of the students departing on Dec. 21.

"Holiday Block Leave is a great opportunity for our Soldiers to reflect, rejuvenate, and reconnect with their family and friends during the holiday season,” said Army Col. Jason Williams, 32nd Medical Brigade commander. “I'm happy our Wranglers can take a break and come back ready to resume their training.”

Williams and members of the 32nd Medical Brigade team were at the airport this morning ensuring Soldiers made their flights, had everything they needed and knew they could reach out for assistance at any time while they are away.

Brig. Gen. Clinton K. Murray and Command Sgt. Maj. Victor E. Laragione, MEDCoE commanding general and command sergeant major, respectively, visited with many of the Soldiers as they waited for their flights in their terminal and in the USO.

“This year we have nearly 3,000 students who are traveling. It’s a big operation, and we begin planning early so our students can go home for the holidays,” Murray said. “Many of them have not seen their families since joining the Army. The break gives them time to energize and come back ready to continue their training to become medical professionals.”

For many of the students, this is their first opportunity to return home after joining the military.

Pvt. Sergio Godinez is traveling home to Las Vegas. and is excited to see his family. He has been away from home for eleven months since he left for Basic Military Training. “It’s nice to have a little break to go see my family,” said Godinez, who is studying to become a 68Q Pharmacy Specialist and is about halfway through his training.

Like Godinez, many of the Soldiers who spoke to Murray are looking forward to seeing family, as well as eating home-cooked meals and sleeping in.

“Holiday Block Leave is about taking care of our people and their families. The health and safety of our Soldiers, trainees, cadre and their families are our top priorities,” Murray said. “This is a well-deserved opportunity for our Soldiers to reset and recharge.”

While the students are away on leave, the staff, instructors and drill sergeants also get a chance to take a break and unplug from the rigorous training and time-consuming demands of educating the most junior Soldiers, to the many leadership and graduate courses also provided by MEDCoE to more seasoned service members.

“It is important to use this period to pause and reflect,” Laragione said.  “As our students enjoy a well-deserved break from their studies, our staff also have the opportunity to relax and rejuvenate. I really hope the staff enjoys time with friends and family over this holiday but also take time to reflect on what an incredible impact they have on the people they train and lead.”

Trainees will continue to travel to their holiday block leave destinations through Dec. 22 and are expected to return after the holidays. Once they return, the Soldiers will complete their training, and report to their first unit.

To learn more about MEDCoE visit