Roth Extends Special Leave Accrual Rules for All Airmen, Guardians

Once more, Airmen and Guardians will be able to carry over up to 120 days of leave from fiscal year 2021, acting Secretary of the Air Force John P. Roth announced July 23.

The move, Roth wrote in a memo distributed to the major commands, is aimed at helping service members who have been unable to take leave due to restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. While more and more of those restrictions have been lifted as of late, “many [Department of the Air Force] service members, through no fault of their own, have found it difficult to manage and reduce their individual leave balances to no more than 60 days,” Roth wrote.

The special leave accrual rules are essentially the same as the ones put into place for fiscal 2020, when the pandemic severely limited travel and movement. All Airmen and Guardians on Active duty and all Reserve and Guard Airmen on Title 10 or Title 32 orders can accumulate up to 120 days of leave, double the usual 60, and keep up to that amount for another three years, now until Sept. 30, 2024.

“Rest and recuperation are vital to morale, unit and personal performance, and overall motivation for Airmen and Guardians. The Department of the Air Force recognizes the importance to provide opportunities for its service members to use their earned leave in the year it was earned and provide respite from the work environment,” Roth wrote.

Airmen and Guardians who have already been approved for special leave accrual for other reasons will not lose leave, and no matter when their special leave exemption is set to expire, they will still be able to carry up to 120 days until 2024, Roth added.

Roth’s decision comes a month after Ramon Colon-Lopez, the senior enlisted adviser to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said in a Facebook post that service secretaries would be allowed to grant special leave accrual at installations and mobile units “where conditions that severely restrict members’ opportunities to take/use leave still exist,” noting that many of the military’s bases have now lifted COVID-19 restrictions.

At the same time, Colon-Lopez also said that service secretaries would be granted “wide latitude” to determine special leave rules for all members.