Spc. Dallas Ochoa reunites with his daughter, Kaylynn

Spc. Dallas Ochoa, assigned to the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, reunites with his daughter, Kaylynn, following a 2018 homecoming ceremony at the William Bill Reed Special Event Center, Fort Carson, Colo. 

WASHINGTON – The latest revision of Army Regulation 600-8-10 is part of the largest update to the department’s military leave and pass policy in more than a decade, according to Larry Lock, chief of Compensation and Entitlements in the Army’s G-1 office.

“The new regulation encompasses (some new allowances), rearranges the sections to make it more user friendly, clarifies policy and covers the new leave forms,” Lock said.

It also more closely aligns terminology with Defense Department Instruction 1327.06, Leave and Liberty Policy and Procedures. The result is a regulation that’s more comprehensive and will reduce confusion, especially for Soldiers working in joint environments.

 “We’re an all-volunteer force since 1973, and sustaining that requires new ways to take care of our people,” Lock said. “One way to do that is to streamline the process for requesting leave, which enhances morale by encouraging Soldiers to take time off.”

The Army used input from Soldiers to improve DA Form 31, Request and Authority for Leave, and DA Form 4179, the Leave Log. The last update to the leave form was in 1993.

“It had to be a more usable form, given the changes in the types of leave (covered in the revised regulation). We also wanted to make sure commanders and Soldiers clearly understood what type of leave was chargeable and what was non-chargeable,” Lock said.

Soldier feedback resulted in larger leave address, remark and organizational address fields. While it is not required by regulation, Soldiers can now enter three or more addresses where they expect to stay while on leave.

“We now have an improved process, and that has improved the DA Form 31,” Lock acknowledged.

The Leave Log update helps personnel administrators track the absences requested and those approved or disapproved for Soldiers in their organizations. Both the new DA-31 and 4179 forms are available on the Army Publishing Division website. All Soldiers are encouraged to download the latest versions of the forms as improvements will continue to be made.

A key section of the revised regulation covers parental leave. Soldiers have been taking advantage of the new Military Parental Leave Policy since last year. The revised AR 600-8-10 includes the MPLP, and further explains its nuances. The leave policy associated with childbirth can be somewhat confusing, and the revised regulation helps Soldiers navigate through the different leaves, Lock said.

There are three different types of leave associated with the birth of a child: maternity convalescent, and primary and secondary caregiver. New birthparents are authorized 42 days of maternity convalescent leave upon release from the hospital or birthing center. As this is convalescent leave, it is non-chargeable.

The primary caregiver, as designated by the Soldier, is authorized 42 days of non-chargeable leave that must be taken within 12 months of qualifying birth events, but not necessarily in a continuous block. The secondary caregiver is authorized 21 days of non-chargeable leave with the same time stipulations. The regulation has full details and covers exceptions to the normal leaves.

Lock said the Army is striving to help Soldiers better understand their benefits, especially the young ones who make up the majority of new Army parents.

Previously, a parental leave of only 10 non-chargeable days was available for non-birthparents, and had to be used within 45 days after the birth. Now, secondary caregivers leave is a very significant change in support of family quality of life.

Rounding out his discussion of the policy changes, Lock explained that Soldiers may request a non-chargeable absence to assist with major events for Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and similar community support groups. This was previously authorized by AR 600-8-10, but it now falls under an umbrella category that further covers athletes taking part in competitive sporting events, for example.

“The military is pretty arduous duty. Soldiers earn 30 days of paid leave per year. No other American industry out there comes close to that,” Lock boasted.

He advised Soldiers to check their leave balance often.

“Every month, Soldiers have the personal responsibility to verify the accuracy of their LES, which shows their balance, the amount of leave they used during the fiscal year, and the number of leave days they will lose if they don’t take it before the end of the fiscal year,” he said.

For eligible Soldiers, the remarks section, beginning on Oct. 31 will state the maximum leave they can carry over at the end of the fiscal year, and when the ability to carry more than 60 days will expire. This should be checked every month because leave usage affects the carry-over amount. Soldiers should not rely on Special Leave Accrual, which is restricted to a very limited number of cases and DA-level review.

One of the biggest leave problems, Lock said, is getting Soldiers to take it.

“Soldiers are very dedicated to their jobs, to the point they’re reluctant to take leave,” he observed. “It is good to know they are that committed, but they also need to make their own well-being and that of their family a priority. This will contribute to improve performance and increased motivation when back at work.

Commanders are responsible for having an effective annual leave program that provides Soldiers with the opportunity to take time off, to include extended periods if operational requirements permit.