Military Vacation Leave and Job Training

What the Recruiter Never Told You Series

Military Mom Coming Home
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Whatever their rank, all military personnel get the same amount of annual paid time off. Military members get 30 days of paid leave per year, earned at the rate of 2.5 days per month.

Military leave is a bit different than the traditional leave at civilian organizations, partly because it counts weekend days against the balance. And according to military regulations, leave must start and end in the same local area.

If you begin your leave on Monday, you cannot leave the local area until Monday, even if you are off-duty on Saturday and Sunday. Conversely, if you schedule your leave to end on a Friday, you must return to the local area on that Friday, even if you're not scheduled for work until the following Monday.

Regular leave is approved or denied by the military member's immediate supervisor. 

Requesting Emergency and Unearned Leave

Emergency leave, which is applicable when a military member's family member dies or is seriously ill, is approved by the commander or first sergeant. Emergency leave days still count against the 30-day leave total. If circumstances warrant, a military member could "borrow" leave s/he hasn't earned yet from his or her future allowance. 

For example, let's say a member only has 10 days of leave available, but a family emergency would require him or her to take 15 days of leave.

Pending a commander's approval, s/he could take the extra five days, but would not accrue any new leave in the future until those days had been "paid back." S/he'd have to earn them at the 2.5 days per month rate. 

With a few exceptions, commanders are usually reluctant to approve leave that hasn't been earned yet.

This is because, under the law, if a person is discharged (for any reason) and they have a negative leave balance, they must repay the military one day's base pay for each day they are "in the hole" as of the date of the discharge.

How the Military Calculates Leave

Leave is based on the government's fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1 and ends Sept. 30. If the fiscal year ends and a military member has a surplus of leave time, s/he can carry over a maximum of 60 days to the next fiscal year. 

Exceptions to the 60-day limit may be allowed if there are unusual circumstances, such as when someone can show s/he was denied leave due to military necessity like a long-term deployment. But under most situations, if a military member has 65 days of leave as of Sept. 30, s/he loses those five extra days as of Oct. 1. 

In most cases, the cost of travel is at the member's expense while on leave. However, in the cases of emergency leave, while assigned or deployed overseas, or deployed at sea (such as in the Navy or the Marine Corps), the military will arrange free transportation back to the U.S.

Once the member arrives at the port of entry, the cost of travel to their leave area becomes their responsibility. And when the leave is finished, the military will also arrange for free transportation from the port back to the overseas or sea duty assignment.

Selling Back Extra Leave Time

Surplus leave can be "sold back" at the time of reenlistment and separation or retirement. Each day of leave saved can be sold back for one day's base pay. A military member can only sell back a maximum of 60 days of leave during his entire military career. S/he can spread those 60 days out over different periods, for example, s/he may sell back 10 days of leave during his first re-enlistment, then 10 days during his next re-enlistment, and so on.

It's generally not a good idea to sell back leave until the military member has enough rank or time-in-service that their base pay rate makes it worthwhile. Those days are more valuable if sold back at a higher pay grade. 

If one reenlists while in a combat zone, money received for selling leave is tax-free.

In addition to or instead of selling leave back, a military member may opt to take terminal leave when s/he is discharged or retires. For example, let's say you are scheduled to be discharged on Sept. 1 and you have 30 days of leave saved up. You can out-process from the military 30 days early, then continue to receive full pay, including base pay, housing allowance, food allowance, and any special pay, until your official date of discharge.

The Army's Christmas Exodus

During the two weeks around the end-of-year holidays, the Army all but shuts down basic training, and advanced individual training (AIT) schools. The Air Force and Navy do not shut down basic training, but do shut down many of their job schools (such as tech schools and A-schools). This period is known as Christmas exodus. 

Recruits are usually allowed to go home on leave at this time if they want to, even if it results in a negative leave balance. Those recruits who choose not to take leave at this time are normally assigned to do details such as answer phones or cut the grass, since most of the instructors and drill sergeants will be away on leave, and classes are not conducted during this time.

Usually (but not always) if a recruit takes leave during Christmas exodus, that results in a negative leave balance, and they won't be authorized to take leave after school graduation 

Difference Between Leave and Passes

A pass is non-chargeable time off. During a military member's normal off-duty time, s/he is automatically considered to be on a regular pass, which is his military ID card. With a few exceptions (such as basic training, or phase restrictions in technical school), a military person can leave the base when off-duty without special permission.

Another type of pass is a special pass, such as a three-day pass. These are issued by the commander, first sergeant, or (sometimes) supervisor for time off given as a reward for superior performance. Usually, a special pass cannot be used back-to-back with leave, and cannot in most cases be used in conjunction with a weekend or other scheduled off-duty time.

Permissive Temporary Duty Assignment

Sometimes a military member wants to attend a conference or class or function that the military won't pay for, but which benefits the individual professionally (which by extension benefits the military). In such cases, the commander can authorize a permissive temporary duty assignment, or TDY. Members on permissive TDY do not receive any travel pay, or reimbursement  as they would for an official TDY, but the time isn't charged against their leave. Examples of permissive TDYs would be the Hometown Recruiter's Assistance Program, or a computer specialist attending a certified computer course.

Hometown Recruiter Assistance Program

With the approval of the recruiter and the school commander, recruits may be authorized a permissive TDY to return to their hometown and assist a military recruiter for up to 20 days, depending on the service. Recruiter assistance duty can often be combined with leave, so the member spends some of their time at home working with the recruiter, and some of their time at home on leave.

The amount of leave that can be combined with the recruiter assistance program, and the length of the authorized permissive TDY varies from service to service.

Leave During Training Periods

In the Air Force, job training is called technical school, or sometimes tech school for short. In the Navy, initial job training is called A-school (advanced job training is called "C-school"). The Army refers to their job training as AIT, or advanced individual training.

The rules concerning military leave don't end after boot camp graduation. For non-prior-service enlistees, there are restrictions such as curfew, restriction to base and wearing of civilian clothes for the first portion of job training. Each branch of the military handles these slightly differently.

The Marine Corps does not impose any special restrictions on their Marines during job training. However, all non-infantry Marines have to attend a special basic combat training course before they continue on to job training.

The Coast Guard also does not impose restrictions during their job training, because CG personnel do not go to A-school directly out of basic training. They must spend a year or so at their first duty station, doing general duties before they get to choose a rating (job) and go to A-school.

It's important to remember that (except for the Marines), leave is not usually authorized following basic training. 

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