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Leave Policy Cuts Soldiers' 'Free' Days
Stars and Stripes | January 09, 2008

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Soldiers who combine regular or special passes with leave will now have the total block of time charged as annual leave, according to a new Army policy.

Until now, soldiers doing a back-to-back pass/leave combination usually got charged only for the personal leave, with the pass time counting as "free" days off.

That was allowable under the Army's old leave policy, which included wording that said "both leaves" could be taken in conjunction.

But those words conflicted with another section of the policy, which told commanders they were not allowed to approve back-to-back absences for soldiers without at least one duty day in between.

The conflicting passages were causing "major confusion, and some pretty creative interpretation," Victor Bosko, the Army's staff policy proponent for leave and passes, told Stars and Stripes by phone Monday.

Faced with a large volume of inquiries from soldiers and their commanders, Army officials issued a military personnel message this week to clear the matter up.

Soldiers most affected by the change will be those who plan their leave around holiday periods such as Christmas, because there are so many "free" federal and unit training days off built in, Bosko said.

Now, if those soldiers are not physically present at their duty stations at the start and finish of the "free" days off -- the Army calls this "special pass" time -- the soldiers will forfeit them.

That time must be charged as annual leave, according to the new policy.

The issue, Bosko said, is readiness: Passes are designed to give soldiers short breaks from duty but still offer commanders the ability to quickly recall them if needed. That recall capability dissolves when soldiers use passes as a way to extend their personal leave, he said.

In the Army, a regular pass, also known as a "pass period," is a short, nonchargeable, authorized absence from duty during normal off-duty hours, like a weekend.

A "special pass" is the Army's way of describing the three- or four-day period given to troops for national holidays and long weekends.

In the civilian world, workers often "piggyback" vacation time with time off granted by their employers, Bosko acknowledged.

"But you can't treat the military like civilians."

Under new leave policy

Using the holiday period that just passed:

A soldier stationed in Germany went stateside for the holidays. He left Germany on Dec. 22 and returned to duty on Jan. 2.

The period from Saturday, Dec. 22, to Tuesday, Dec. 25, was a four-day special pass for his unit.

His unit then granted another four-day pass for New Year's, from Saturday, Dec. 29, to Tuesday, Jan. 1.

That soldier took personal leave Dec. 26-28, -- three days' leave for an 11-day trip.

Before the policy change, the soldier would have been charged for just his personal leave, Dec. 26-28. Now, that soldier will be charged leave for the entire time he was stateside, from Dec. 22 to Jan. 1.

He does not get the two, four-day special passes as free time off.

However, any soldier in his unit who can sign in for a duty day from Dec. 26-28 would get those eight days as nonchargeable leave.

In this instance, any soldier who also wanted to take personal leave during the period between Christmas and New Year's (a period not covered by the special passes) would have to work at least one duty day after the first special pass expired.

-- Lisa Burgess

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Copyright 2013 Stars and Stripes. All opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of Military.com.

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