After basic training, most graduates are more than ready for a mini-vacation.
Not so fast.
Leave in the military is a bit of a complicated subject. It’s not like any other job where you just request two weeks off and it immediately gets approved. You will eventually get a vacation, but it takes time to get to that point. Since you’re still fresh to military life, there’s a lot to learn — like how your vacation time works.
Here we break down what leave after basic training looks like, including what leave time you’re entitled to as a service member.
Leave After Basic Training: What You Need to Know
While some branches do offer a few hours of liberty post-graduation, it’s not the same as military leave.
You won’t be able to start packing your bags for official leave time just yet.
With the exception of the Marines and Coast Guard, the other branches require new grads to head on to their next training station right away. Marines get 10 days of leave time before heading to their School of Infantry (SOI). Coast Guard members may take five days of leave before reporting to their next duty station.
The length of your upcoming training (graduate technical school/AIT/A-School) will dictate when you get your first chance to take military leave.
How You Accrue Leave Days
Active duty service members in all branches receive 2.5 days of leave per month. That equals 30 days of leave each year. You may carry up to 60 days to the next fiscal year to take longer vacations.
This doesn’t mean your command will grant it, though.
Any leave time over 60 days at the end of the fiscal year is forfeited, so it’s smart to take your days when you can. Plus, rest and relaxation is good for the mind and body to help you feel refreshed.
Quick Facts About Military Leave Time
As with most official business in the military, there are exceptions to rules and regulations. Military leave time is a perfect example of that. Here are some quick facts that are helpful when it comes to understanding leave:
- Check your Leave and Earnings Statement (LES) on MyPay to see how many leave days you have accrued.
- All Guard or Reserve members (including members on extended active duty) should be credited with 15 days of paid military leave on October 1 each year.
- Military leave must be placed on the calendar year in which the hours are used. This goes for emergency leave, too.
- National Guard of the District of Columbia receives unlimited military leave for certain types of duty ordered under title 49 of the District of Columbia Code.
- Only Reserve and National Guard Technicians are granted 44 workdays of military leave for duties overseas under specific conditions.
When to Take Your Military Leave
There are certain periods of time in your military career where you’ll definitely want to take some leave. Leave is not always just for taking a vacation. Sometimes you might want to spend your leave getting your affairs in order before a big life transition like moving.
Events to take leave for may include:
- Prior to relocating
- Before deploying
- Visiting sick relatives
- House hunting
- Rest and relaxation
These are just a few reasons you may always want to have a little bit of leave saved up.
Toward the end of your career, leave time is helpful for transitioning out of the military so you can schedule job interviews. Outside of your 30 days of leave, you may also be entitled to special opportunities to take leave for events like the birth of your child.
It’s ultimately up to your command to say if your leave will be granted.
Maximize Upon Your Leave Benefit
No matter what branch you’re in, make sure you take advantage of your military leave benefits. Those benefits are there for you to take time for yourself to unwind away from military life.
The government’s fiscal year starts on October 1, so be sure to use up any extra days that you might lose prior to then. Leave in the military is part of your earned benefits for dedicating your time as an active duty service member.
When you can, use those leave days!
One important note: When using your leave time, make sure you truly understand what the start and end dates are for your days off. Before you go, program your command’s important numbers in your phone to immediately inform them of any potential travel delays.
Above all, enjoy your time off!