Centcom-area Troops to Get Commercial Tickets for R&R Flights
By David Vergun
Army News Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 29, 2013 Beginning in April, service members and others serving overseas in U.S. Central Command’s area of operations will be issued commercial airline tickets to travel to their rest and recuperation leave destination, officials said.
Headquartered in Tampa, Fla., Centcom’s overseas AOR encompasses a region stretching from Egypt to Afghanistan, officials said.
Previously, the only R&R travel option was to fly charter air to Atlanta or Dallas from Kuwait, said Army Lt. Col. Dave Homza, chief of the R&R Task Force. Now service members will be issued individual commercial tickets to their approved R&R leave destination, be it stateside or elsewhere in the world.
A pilot program that started Jan. 15 offered commercial tickets to some service members and DOD civilians when flying home from Kuwait on R&R.
Full transition to commercial tickets for all R&R passengers begins April 1 as charter flights end, an Army official said.
The Army has been serving as DOD’s executive agent for Centcom’s R&R Leave Program since it started in 2003, Homza said. About 96 percent of the passengers taking R&R flights over that timespan have been soldiers.
Eligibility requirements for R&R flights remain the same, he said. The person must be on at least a 12-month tour within the CENTCOM overseas area of operations, with at least 270 days on the ground.
At peak troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan, about 1,000 passengers a day were flying charter air to Atlanta or Dallas, Homza said. Today, that number has fallen to several dozen passengers daily.
As the drawdown in Afghanistan picked up last year and as tours began decreasing from 12 to nine months, the Dallas R&R gateway was closed, consolidating R&R passengers traveling to the continental U.S. in Atlanta, he said.
Also, smaller aircraft were chartered to save additional money, he added.
During peak troop levels, the charters made good economic sense, Homza said. Now, transitioning to individual commercial tickets is more economical and gives soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and DOD civilians more travel flexibility, he added.