One of the great things about being in the military is that the moment you join, you get 30 days of paid leave per year. If you were in the civilian world, you would most likely need to work up to that. You might get 1-2 weeks of vacation your first year and then you might get a little more after you have been at that job for a few years. Need a personal day? Need a sick day? Well there goes one of your vacation days.
In the Army its different. If you need a sick day, talk to your first line supervisor (team leader most likely) and get a sick call slip. Doc may give you quarters, which do not eat into your leave. Need to go to a family members funeral? You will most likely be granted a 4 day pass to go which also does not eat into your leave.
The one thing that is bad about leave and passes in the military is that if your command team orders you back, you must find the fastest way back home. This only happens in emergencies though. That generally doesn’t happen in the civilian world, where when you are on vacation no one expects you back until you get back.
Put in your leave/pass packet: Before we get into the types of passes and leave, lets go over how to even put in a packet. These pieces of the packet are pretty much universal where ever you go in the Army, but for unit specific pieces get with your S-1. Don’t worry, as you do these packets, it will get easier and faster to do. I can do one in about 15 minutes, which includes the TRiPS and vehicle inspection if I have a cooperative supervisor. One tip I have is to get permission first before you turn a packet in, your supervisor will be less likely to look it over if he already knows its coming.
- DA 31: This is essentially your leave request form from the Army that your supervisor and commander sign which authorizes you to go on leave. It is pretty self explanatory and you will only need to fill out blocks 2 through 11. Get your supervisor to sign block 12. You can get a copy of it here.
- TRiPS Risk Assessment: If you are not flying you will need a TRiPS. Yes, its mandatory. This lets you know how you can make your trip safer, gives you the approximate miles you will be traveling, and directions to your destination. Just follow the directions on filling this out. It is pretty easy to use (if annoying). You can get to the Travel Risk Planning System (TRiPS) here.
- Vehicle Inspection Check List: This is unit specific and ask your S-1 if they have one that they use. This will go over things like working running lights, usable spare tire, unbroken windows, etc. If you have a vehicle that is less than 10 years old you probably do not need to worry about your vehicle passing inspection. Most likely they will require your first line supervisor (probably your team leader) to do the inspection and sign off on the sheet.
- Flight Itinerary: This obviously only applies if you are flying. If you are flying then you do not need to do a TRiPS assessment or a vehicle inspection check list.
- Unit specific leave request form: This is also unit specific. I am not sure why units do this. You are turning in a DA 31 so putting in a separate request form is a little redundant. Oh well. Some units will require you put in a different request form, but they may not. It just depends on the unit requirements for putting in leave/pass requests. Just ask your S-1 and they can clarify what you need.
- Safety Pledge: This is also unit specific and is basically a safety brief that you sign. It is your company commander doing the CYA (Cover Your Ass). It will go over drinking and driving, taking drugs, etc. so that if you do any of those, your commander can tell the investigators that you signed the safety pledge which told you not to do those things.
Federal Holidays: Did I mention we also get 4 days for each and every federal holiday (mission dependent). Part of that 4 day training/work holiday is typically a weekend, but that still means you get 20 days of free leave per year. That means for the following holidays you get a 4 days off of work which does not eat into any of your accrued leave:
New Year’s Day
Martin Luther King Day
Passes: Passes are much like federal holidays in that they cannot go past 4 days. If you need more than 4 days, then it turns into leave which does eat into your accrued leave. Passes can be granted for special circumstances (funerals, marriages, rewards, etc.). You can also take a pass during the week, such as Monday through Thursday, go to work on Friday, and then be off for the weekend.
Leave: You get 30 days of leave per year. This works by giving you 2.5 days of leave every month. Your leave will keep accumulating if you do not use it, up to 75 days of accrued leave (as of June 27, 2008). Anything past this turns into “use-or-lose” which means if you do not use leave over your 75 day threshold by 1 October of that fiscal year, you will lose that leave. You can use this leave for anything you want as long as your Army does not need you for that time. All it takes is your Commander’s signature to approve your leave for up to 30 days.
To use more than 30 days of leave you need an O-6 signature that is in your chain of command, which would probably be your brigade commander. To be on the safe side, you might want to keep 14 days of leave under your hat just in case of an emergency.
You are also charged leave when you go on “block leave,” which is when everyone in your unit is approved to go on leave such as during Christmas, or after a deployment.
Convalescent Leave: This is also known as sick leave, and can be used when you are sick or injured. This requires a doctor’s signature and may be used in conjunction with “quarters” which is a doctor’s order which keeps you in your house to let you recuperate. The way this works is if you get injured, you go to sick call, doc says you need 5 days off of work and signs off on it. You turn it into your S-1 for processing and you go home and get better.
Permissive TDY (Temporary Duty): This is used when you are PCSing (Permanent Change of Station) between duty stations. It gives you an allotted amount of time for house hunting and moving your household goods. This is typically no more than 10 days. A lot of Soldiers like to get this approved before they go to their next duty station so that they do not have to get the new chain of command to sign off on it. When you sign in, just make sure you present your PTDY leave form.
Hometown Recruiting Assistance Program (HRAP): This is really only applicable when you first come into the Army. For enlisted folks this is typically in between when you are done with AIT (Advanced Individual Training) and when you go to your first unit. This allows you to go home and help your recruiter, and in return you do not get charged any leave. Usually this is used in conjunction with leave, for example you could do 7 days of HRAP with 7 days of leave. This would let you be home for 14 days without going into the hole for so much leave. You need prior approval from your recruiter before you do this, you can’t just show up at the recruiting station.
Deployment Rest and Recuperation (R&R): R&R is chargeable leave, although sometimes for R&R the paperwork “gets lost” on its way to being filed, which means the Soldier doesn’t get charged.* You are usually only eligible for R&R on deployments of 12 months or more. You will generally be approved for 15 days of R&R and this is usually used toward the middle of your deployment, but can usually not be taken any sooner than 60 days in theater or 60 days prior to leaving theater. This leave is essentially for you to take a break from the deployment and unwind. The nice thing about this type of leave is that the Army pays for your ticket home, or wherever you want to go. You do not necessarily have to go home, I know a Soldier that went to Australia for his R&R.
*I have no knowledge of this happening to myself or anyone that I know, but have heard that this sometimes happens through unsubstantiated stories.
Terminal Leave: When you leave the Army most likely you will still have leave accrued that needs to either be used up or sold back to the Army. If you want to use it up you must get all of your out processing paperwork done before you terminal leave starts. If you had 30 days of leave accrued and you had a retirement date of 30 November, your terminal leave would start 31 October. During those 30 days you would still get all your pay and entitlements such as your BAH, base pay and medical coverage. If you want to sell it back to the Army, you would only get your base pay for those 30 days. You would not get BAH, BAS, or any other special pay. Additionally you would be taxed on that amount. Typically it is a better option to take terminal leave.