Shirt Tales -- Use the right leave program

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Thomas Raupach
  • 61st Medical Group
Due to the upcoming holiday season, a lot of questions regarding the Military Leave Program have come up. I'd like to address some of the guidelines found in AFI 36-3003 in regards to the use of regular passes, special passes and annual leave for military members. Refer to AFI 36-815 for civilian guidelines.

Let's start with the basics. A pass period is an authorized absence from duty for a relatively short time and is not charged as leave. It starts from the end of normal working hours on a duty day and ends at the beginning of normal working hours the next duty day. At the beginning and the end of the pass period, the member is actually in the local area. The local area is the place from which they regularly commute to and from work. This sounds much like a regular pass, right?

A regular pass; or liberty, normally begins at the end of working hours on Friday afternoon until the beginning of normal working hours on the following Monday when non-duty days are Saturday and Sunday. A regular pass period for units on non-traditional work schedules may not exceed the four-day special pass limitation.

Now, a special pass may be awarded by unit commanders for special occasions or circumstances, such as reenlistment or for some type of special recognition or compensatory time off. These are three- to four-day passes. A three-day special pass can be Friday through Sunday, Saturday through Monday, or Tuesday through Thursday. A four-day special pass can be Thursday through Sunday, Saturday through Tuesday or Friday through Monday. This applies to the normal Monday through Friday work week. The exception is this: The AFSPC Commander has directed that the Family Day, which enables the four-day holiday weekend such as Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's, has been deemed as a regular pass instead of a special pass. This makes that four-day weekend a regular pass. All leave in conjunction with regular pass rules apply.
In regards to regular and special passes, there are no imposed mileage restrictions. However, unit commanders may require members to be able to return to duty within a reasonable time in the event of an operational mission requirement such as a recall, unit alert or unit emergency. Special passes cannot be used in conjunction with leave or be used in succession or in series. If a member exceeds the pass period, they are charged leave. Lastly, special passes cannot be used in conjunction with non-duty days exceeding the three- or four-day special pass limitation.

The last alternative to taking some time off is the Annual Leave Program. This program gives members the opportunity to take leave within the constraints of operational requirements. The entitlement to leave is a right; however, unit commanders can deny leave due to military necessity or when in the best interests of the Air Force. An AF Form 988 must be completed and processed through Leave Web before the member starts leave which must start and end in the local area. In addition, the member must have part II of the form with a valid leave number on their person while on leave and then sign in upon return from leave on part III.

The holidays are upon us. This is a busy time of year but an equally important one to bond with our families and friends. Regular passes, special passes and annual leave give military members an avenue to step back from their busy daily routines to recharge their batteries. Military members work long countless hours and deserve some periodic down time. The key here is to use the proper authorized pass for the right occasion and to use them for the right reasons. Rest, relax and enjoy friends and family and have a great holiday season!