Airmen Can’t Take Special “Bereavement Leave.” Wright Wants to Change That.

Every month military members earn two and a half days of leave, adding up to a total of 30 days, which can be used anytime, mission permitting. Leave is governed by Congress and is the service member’s privilege to take. Air Force photo.

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright is leading a push to give airmen designated time off for bereavement, in case of a death in the family or another emergency.

Airmen are currently required to use regular leave in those cases, but that doesn’t make much sense to Wright and other Air Force leaders.

Wright points to his own experience: For the first 17 years or so of his Air Force career, he played basketball. It was never a problem to get approval from commanders for temporary duty travel for games. But when he needed to travel for family reasons, he would have to use leave, he told Air Force Magazine.

For some airmen, approved personal leave lasts only a couple of days before they have to return to work. This does not give an airman enough time to, for example, get an estate in order for a parent who died, or set up funeral and burial arrangements, Wright said.

He suggested airmen should be allowed to take up to 14 days of bereavement leave on top of other forms of time off, although that number isn’t a formal proposal.

The service’s top enlisted official said he’s pushing to get Air Force instructions and Defense Department regulations changed, which requires approval from the Joint Staff. But others are pushing back on the idea of bereavement leave, saying that’s what regular leave is for.

“Someone looked and said, ‘Hey, the average E-4 or E-5 has a set number of days of leave on the books already, and they should be using that leave,’” Wright said. “That may be true. But fundamentally, I think [bereavement leave is] the right thing to do.”