Bosnia Troops to Get Up to 15 Days' Rest and
By Master Sgt. Stephen Barrett, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 9, 1996 Operation Joint Endeavor service members slated for peacekeeping duties over 180 days are eligible for up to 15 days of rest and recuperation. The policy, approved March 21, affects active duty personnel, reservists and DoD civilians deployed to Bosnia and adjacent areas.
According to a U.S. European Command release, personnel assigned in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia and Hungary may take the "R and R" leave. The release said the program will give those deployed "a respite from the intensity of the peacekeeping mission and an opportunity to spend time with their family and friends."
For service members, the 15 days includes two days for transportation to and from their leave destinations. DoD is budgeting $11 million to support "R and R" flights from Tuzla, Bosnia, and from Taszar, Hungary, to either Frankfurt, Germany, or an undetermined U.S. entry terminal.
Although considered rest and recuperation leave, officials with DoD's compensation office emphasized time spent away from the Bosnia peacekeeping mission is no different from regular leave. Officials said troops will get two travel days -- the remaining days will count as regular leave.
DoD civilians deployed to Joint Endeavor sites may also take up to 15 days' leave and may fly on government transportation. However, they will not receive extra days for travel.
Frankfurt is expected to be the main destination for most Joint Endeavor peacekeepers. Most of the 20,000 U.S. personnel in the Balkans are from the Army's 1st Armored Division, headquartered in Bad Kreuznach, Germany, about 40 miles from the Frankfurt airport.
"We're still working out many of the details about how we'll transport folks back and forth to Bosnia," said Capt. Kevin Gainer, a spokesman for U.S. Army, Europe, in Heidelberg, Germany. Gainer said military transport planes and commercially contracted aircraft may shuttle service members to and from designated gateways.
Those same gateways will provide transport to troops should they be recalled from leave. Field commanders will make recall decisions based on security and readiness needs. Meanwhile, Gainer said, commanders must determine how to implement leave policies and still maintain their readiness as Implementation Force personnel approach the midway point of their peacekeeping mission.
"The commanders are encouraging folks to participate in the program and have a lot of flexibility in how they approve leaves, but they must also maintain enough personnel to effectively perform their peacekeeping mission," said Gainer.
Part of the flexibility includes granting leave to troops short of earned leave days. At a rate of 2.5 days per month, many service members will earn their "R and R" leave while deployed. However, officials said, local commanders may modify their unit leave policy to get all service members a break.
Service members are not required to take "R and R" leave. However, service members may take the leave only once during a 12-month period -- a rule U.S. Army Europe said local commanders will monitor carefully.
Eligible reservists may also take "R and R" leave. Those who decline will be able to cash in that leave once they finish their overseas duty tour.
Originally, U.S. Army, Europe officials were scheduling block reservations with the armed forces recreation centers in Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Chiemsee, Germany. However, officials said, those plans changed because the services cannot legally fund food and lodging to troops on leave status. Those plans also would have restricted where troops could travel and relax -- something Gainer said the commanders didn't want to do.
"By sending everybody to Garmisch and Chiemsee, we felt we were limiting their options," said Gainer. "We want them to enjoy their free time." He said the plan now is to take troops to Frankfurt, unite them with family and friends and let them plan their own relaxation.
There are restrictions to the program. Service members on temporary duty to the region (180 days or less) are not eligible. Those requiring additional transportation from Frankfurt or the U.S. entry port must make their own arrangements at their own expense.
Although the leave may be a welcome break, Joint Endeavor members will lose some of their pay entitlements while away from the mission. U.S. Army Europe officials said certain places pay from $8 to $22.50 per month stops if a service member is absent from the area for more than 24 hours. Payments resume once the member returns to the operations area. Troops will also lose the $3.50 per diem payment while on leave.
Officials advised service members taking the rest and recuperation leave they are still subject to recall. Military personnel must provide leave addresses and phone numbers with rear detachment personnel should a recall occur.