Making the most of military leave

  • Published
  • By Col. Paul Eberhart
  • 62nd Operations Group commander
Have you considered the Air Force wants you to work 11 months of the year and the 12th month is yours to rest and recuperate? Most of the demands imposed at the office make it seem like you could work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year and there would still be more to accomplish. Leave is important and needs to be budgeted and planned for like a paycheck.

Here are a couple thoughts that may improve your opportunity to take the leave you've earned:

First, plan your leave over the full year. Every September, you should look at the upcoming fiscal year and identify key events in your professional and personal life. Find out when major inspections are planned because leave usually isn't granted at that time. Mark off known or vulnerable periods for deployment. Identify all possible work conflicts like TDY, permanent change of station, and job recertification events. In your personal life, mark off known events such as the birth of a child, weddings, graduations and other significant life events. Also, if you have school-aged children, mark down when they are not in school. Finally, pick a couple options for a seven to 10 day period of vacation that works for everyone.

Second, prioritize when you want time off and share it with your supervisor. Is the priority for the family vacation or the brother's wedding? Most supervisors will be able to work with your requests if you prioritize them. The supervisor must accomplish the mission by balancing the work schedule with leave requests. They have a better chance of doing both if you share your leave desires in the form of a leave plan with a year outlook. It's not a guarantee, but having a plan is better than not planning at all.

Third, failure to plan in advance doesn't mean you'll get priority for "use or lose" in August and September. Some career fields are so tightly manned that only 10 percent or less are allowed on leave at a time.

Your leave is a deserved and valuable compensation for the hard work you put into this profession. Leave is an opportunity to invest valuable time in your family and in recreation to renew and refresh for the future. Learn to plan and budget your leave. The reward is knowing what your tasks are for the year and knowing when you'll have a chance to take the next break.