Atlanta included as military leave destination

By Ed Brock

The military has added two more airports, including Atlanta's, to its destinations for a growing number of soldiers who are coming home from Iraq for Rest and Recuperation Leave.

Beginning Sunday the Coalition Forces Land Component Command-Forward at Camp Doha in Kuwait expanded the number of soldiers being sent home on a 15-day leave from around 270 soldiers a day to 479. Some of them will fly from Kuwait to Germany and then on to the Baltimore Washington International Airport, 3rd U.S. Army spokesman Gary Jones said, and from there they will go to destinations primarily in the northeast United States.

But as part of the expansion U.S. Central Command approved the new routes, a direct flight from Kuwait to Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport where personnel from the Southeast can fan out to their respective homes. West Coast soldiers can catch another military flight from Hartsfield to the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

The flights are expected to come through every day until the end of the year, Jones said.

On Sunday the first planeload of about 75 soldiers touched down at Hartsfield and some of them came up into the lobby to meet family or seek ground transportation home, Jones said. Another 100 got off the plane Monday and 65 came up to the lobby to be greeted by "warm hugs and kisses," Jones said.

The soldiers' travel time is not included in the leave time.

"They will get their full 15 days," Jones said.

Most of them are ready to come home to spend the time with their family, Jones said, and the military provides transportation back to the States and from there transportation becomes the soldier's responsibility. Not all of them come all the way back.

"There are some, especially single soldiers, who elect to travel through Europe," Jones said.

Today's flight will arrive around 10:20 a.m. but ordinarily they will land between 7 and 8 a.m. After the first of the year the military will begin rotating new soldiers into Iraq and the R&R leave flights will taper down, only to pick up again later, Jones said.