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JBB Passport Program provides worldwide experiences

Oct 17, 2009

By 13th Sustainment Command Expeditionary Public Affairs

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq - Although the Army can fly Soldiers to countries throughout the world when they take leave, only 10 percent of service members travel to places outside of the United States, said Capt. Desha Platt.

Platt, a personnel officer with the 90th Sust. Bde., said Soldiers can take advantage of leave time to relax and get their minds off everyday missions.

"It's a once in a lifetime opportunity," she said. "A lot of them cannot afford to plan a trip to Australia or wherever they want to go, and the government flies them there for free."

Deployed Soldiers who do not have passports can get or renew them through the Joint Base Balad Passport Program, said Sgt. David Dawley, the noncommissioned officer in charge of legal assistance with the 49th Transportation Battalion and a Hastings, Mich., native.

The majority of Soldiers go home to see family and loved ones, said Spc. Donald Cox III, human resource specialist with the 90th Sus. Bde. and a North Little Rock, Ark., native.

Others, especially Soldiers with children, sometimes avoid going home because it will be more difficult to leave again, he said. Instead, they may choose to visit other countries, to experience different cultures or vacation with their families, he said.

Dawley said the passport program is in place to allow Soldiers to expand their travel options for leave.

"Some people don't have huge families back home or they just want to go see the world," he said. "They can go literally anywhere with a passport, so it's unlimited opportunities."

Soldiers are briefed before they leave so they know what is expected of them and what they need to have prior to departure, Cox said.

Service members must have the proper travel documents and know if there are any other travel requirements for the place or places they plan to visit, said Platt. For some locations, Soldiers may need vaccinations, she said.

In countries where English is not the official language, knowing common phrases in the native language can be beneficial, said Platt.

Platt also said while in other countries, travel safety and operational security are key. Soldiers must beware not to advertise themselves as targets, she said.

She said Soldiers should allow those 15 days to be their time to relax.

"It gives you an opportunity to clear your head and get refocused," said Platt. Everyone gets burnout and needs that break and it's easier to take that break away from here. Always a Soldier, but for that 15 days you are just a tourist, just seeing the world."

For additional information on the JBB passport program contact Dawley at 433-2836.

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