By Airman 1st Class Kathryn R.C. Reaves
20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. — The Air Force announced changes to the Military Parental Leave Program, June 8.
The updates, effective March 23 in accordance with Department of Defense guidance, allow Airmen 42 days of non-chargeable maternity convalescent leave in addition to 42 days for primary caregivers and 21 days for secondary caregivers.
Although the maternity leave must be taken the first full day after the mother and baby are released from the hospital, both types of caregiver leave may be taken any time within one year of birth or adoption. The program is retroactive to Dec. 23, 2016.
This leave allows parents the flexibility to think long-term and deconflict their schedules based off of their needs, said Chief Master Sgt. Daniel Hoglund, command chief for the 20th Fighter Wing. The policy also gives them the opportunity to establish routines.
According to June 6 updates of Air Force Instruction 36-3003, Military Leave Program, “The primary caregiver is the parent with the primary responsibility for caring for a child. In most cases the non-military parent in the case of a qualifying birth event or adoption shall be designated the primary caregiver.”
The AFI states that cases in which a military member may be designated as a primary caregiver include the following: dual military couples, unavailability of the non-military birth parent, need for the non-military parent to return to work, death of the other parent.
“We now have not only the most generous parental leave policy in the DoD, (but) we have the most generous parental leave policy in the federal government,” said Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright.
Wright continued by saying that leaders took full advantage of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 to allow Airmen as much time as possible and in the most flexible way possible.
The updated parental leave program also reflects the local 20th FW priorities of Mission, Airmen and Family.
Hoglund said the updated leave policy falls in line with the philosophy of taking care of Airmen. Senior Air Force leaders set this example by taking the pyramid structure of the chain of command and flipping it upside down.
“We work for our Airmen,” Hoglund said. “You can have all the great technology you want to in the world, but unless we take care of our Airmen who drive the mission, we’re going back to square one again… I think (the policy is) absolutely fantastic and it goes to show why right now is a fantastic time to serve in the United States Air Force, because our chief of staff of the Air Force and our chief master sergeant of the Air Force are listening to our Airmen and making policy changes based on their input.”
For more information, refer to AFI 36-3003 or contact the force management office at 803-895-1582.