The Army is granting soldiers special leave accrual for fiscal 2021, with the ability to accumulate and retain up to 120 days of leave until the end of fiscal 2024.
The move mirrors a similar decision announced by the Air Force earlier this year.
According to the Army, soldiers can retain up to 60 days of ordinary leave plus 60 days of special accrual-protected leave. The change is meant to provide relief for service members who were unable to use their leave during the ongoing pandemic and multiple lengthy deployments.
To qualify, soldiers must have performed active service during fiscal 2021. Defense leaders will automatically include the appropriate amount of SLA days, with that number reflected on a soldier’s leave and earnings statement beginning in October.
Leave earned after the fiscal year will not be protected. And officials said future SLA extensions in connection to COVID are “extremely unlikely.”
An Army statement said officials encourage soldiers and commanders to manage, request and approve leave to provide respite from the work environment and avoid losing leave at the end of a fiscal year.
“Leave is vital to the contribution of morale, level of performance and career motivation for our soldiers,” officials said. “Soldiers work very hard, and using leave – regardless of the leave location – provides a well-earned rest from the Army work environment so that soldiers return to duty rested and ready for the next mission.”
The Air Force announced its special leave accrual rules in July. It is also allowing airmen, including Guardsmen serving on Title 10 or Title 32 orders, to accrue and retain up to 120 days of annual leave from fiscal 2021.
The special leave accrual was approved as many airmen were unable to use their existing leave balances due to COVID-19 and travel restrictions in place for much of the year.
Both the Army and Air Force issued similar guidance at the end of 2020, with service members able to access that leave until the end of fiscal 2023.