Need a Break? Air Force Expands Sabbatical Program

FILE -- An Airman greets his wife as family members rush to find their loved ones during a celebration for those returning home Feb. 5, 2010. (U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Staci Miller)

An Air Force sabbatical program that gives users pay and benefits while letting them take a break from service is expanding its application window while also allowing some off-schedule applications, officials announced Sept. 22.

The program, known as the Career Intermission Program (CIP), is increasing its annual application windows from one to three.

CIP, which began in 2014, gives active duty airmen and career Air Force reservists and guardsmen time to start a family or go back to school by allowing a one-time, up to three year temporary transition from active duty to the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR).

Users sign an agreement to return to active duty in the same component from which they separated. In exchange, they must double their service commitment, serving two months of active duty for every month spent in CIP.

While in CIP, users earn a monthly stipend of one-fifteenth of their basic pay, but still receive full active duty medical and dental benefits for themselves and their families. They can also forward their leave balance as long as it doesn't exceed 60 days, Air Forces Personnel Center (AFPC) officials said.

Time spent in CIP does not count toward eligibility for retirement, computation of total years of service, years of aviation service or years of service towards basic pay. Airmen are not eligible for promotion consideration while in CIP.

Application windows will now be available each year from April 1 to May 13 (Cycle A), Aug. 1 to Sept. 12 (Cycle B) and Dec. 1 to Jan. 12 (Cycle C). This year only, Cycle B will open Sept. 22 through Oct. 31 in an effort to allow time to implement program changes, Air Force officials said.

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"This work-life flexibility initiative will enable the Air Force to retain talent which reduces cost and adverse impacts on the mission," said Adriana Bazan, an AFPC personnel specialist.

Those with "humanitarian circumstances" and dual-military spouses who are facing a move where they are unable to receive a joint assignment can apply outside of the regular windows, officials said, providing they meet the regular CIP criteria. AFPC is also able to expedite those applications, they said.

The Air Force will evaluate applications based on an airman's leadership skills, duty performance, professional development, experience and achievements and potential to serve in the future.

"Air Force manning and mission requirements will also be considered when evaluating applications for approval or disapproval," Bazan said in the Air Force release. "We tell all Airmen applying for CIP that they shouldn't begin outside employment or relocate their families based on an assumption their application will be approved."

Thus far, 108 Airmen have been selected to participate in the program.

More information on applying for the sabbatical program is available on the Air Force's internal myPers portal.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.