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USO Recognizes 500,000th Passenger
By Herschel J. Grangent, Jr.

Representatives from the City of Atlanta’s Department of Aviation, the United Services Organization (USO) and the United States Army recently celebrated a milestone at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (HJAIA).

“The U.S. Army Central Command’s Rest and Recuperation (R & R) Leave Program has hit 500,000 participants since its inception on September 25, 2003,” said Maj. Sarah Goodson of the Third Army Public Affairs Office. “This celebration is a testament to the many organizations, government and civilian agencies, military commands, military personnel, (Department of Defense) civilians, contract and commercial airlines, and many others who help make this all possible.”

The R & R Leave Program was designed to provide a much-needed break for soldiers on duty in Afghanistan, Iraq or Kuwait for 12 months or more. The Army reports that through this program, approximately 420 service members fly home daily. Two chartered aircraft fly troops from Kuwait City International Airport to two hubs in the United States: Hartsfield-Jackson and Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

“There is no cost to the service member for the roundtrip airfare,” said Goodson. “Also, the soldier is not charged any leave time while in transit to or from their leave destinations. R & R Leave begins when the participant arrives at the commercial airport nearest their leave destination.”

Department of Aviation Assistant General Manager of Operations, Security and Maintenance Robert Kennedy represented Hartsfield-Jackson during a ceremony held at the Airport in June. Kennedy accepted a commemorative coin from Maj. Patrick Alexander, the officer in charge of the Atlanta Personnel Assistance Point, as a token of thanks.

Today we welcomed an arriving flight with 267 soldiers on board, and most of them will go directly to connecting flights to their home towns or leave destinations,” said Kennedy. “We thank the Army and USO for allowing us to play a role in the R & R Program and in the travel needs of our American troops.”

Soldier gets much-needed hug from USO rep.
In the past three years alone, approximately 547,500 service members passed through Hartsfield-Jackson either on R & R leave or other military travel. On any given day, passengers in the Airport’s Atrium may see groups of outbound soldiers on their way to duty being escorted by USO staff. The staff members lead Hartsfield-Jackson passengers in a standing ovation for the soldiers.

It is unknown whether the 500,000th service member actually passed through Hartsfield-Jackson or Dallas-Fort Worth. However, passenger projections indicated to Army officials that the milestone would be achieved around the date of the ceremony.





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