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September 17, 2009

GI Dads Get Some Paternity Leave Lovin'

Apparently, as the only former soldier among this esteemed group of dads, certain posts naturally fall to me. So when Jason demanded ordered berated me until I cried asked me to write this post, I said sure, no problem, Boss Man, I'll get right on it. Well, that was three weeks ago. And since the great and glorious (all hail!) Jason holds the purse strings, I figured I might as well get cracking. I have mouths to feed after all. Granted, what I make here doesn't do a lot of feeding. In fact, it's a miracle of modern science my kids haven't starved to death. Oh, that was out loud wasn't it? Um...hi, Jason! ::waves:: Yes, I'll get back to work, right away, Mr. Scrooge sir.

Ok, where was I? Oh, yeah. The military-themed post. The life of a soldier is a difficult one that can really only be understood by the soldier. Time spent away from family members is (understatement of the year to follow) tough. And although I have no first-hand knowledge of what that life is like for a father or mother, I think I have enough experience (as a single soldier and now as a dad) to understand how exponentially difficult it is for them. Being deployed overseas or in hardship tours is especially trying during those times of great import to families: holidays, weddings, births, etc. And although you are surrounded by surrogate family members, brothers-in-arms if you will, loneliness and homesickness are inevitable and inescapable parts of the job. There is no sadder sight than a bunch of drunk soldiers, holding back tears, sitting on pool tables, singing "Happy Xmas (War Is Over) on Christmas Eve. Or soldiers watching Rankin-Bass shows, drinking Captain Morgan's by the bucket, dismantling a Christmas tree and tossing the parts out the window. Woo-hoo, Merry F'in Christmas! But I digress.

Leave is a precious commodity to be used judiciously - unless, of course you have friends in the PAC (Personnel Action Command) who would "misplace" your leave requests upon your return. ::cough::But I wouldn't know anything about that.::cough:: Moving along. Leave is accrued at 2.5 days per month, 30 days per year. However, it is recognized that some soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines may not be able to take that allotted time due to deployments or other hardships. Thus the law allows service members to accrue up to 60 days to be carried over to the next fiscal year with a "use or lose" policy - meaning the soldier needs to use time by September 30 or lose anything over the 60 day accrual. (BTW - 30 days is the equivalent of one month - weekends included.) In my opinion, this is a fairly generous vacation policy and truth be told, there are additional days off (in the rear) at the discretion of the commander as well as holidays, etc.

So, where am I going with all this? Well, I'm glad you asked. Until recently (October 2008), unless they had a veeeerrrrry understanding and compassionate commander, a soldier had to use leave time for the birth of a child - this could mean exhausting whatever time they had remaining and, quite possibly, force the need for advance leave - leave in excess of what was already accrued and would need to be "earned" back. However, recognizing the importance of paternal involvement during this time, the military instituted a new paternity leave policy giving fathers 10 days of administrative leave after the birth of a child. The policy states that paternity leave must be taken within 45 days of the child's birth if the soldier is in the United States. If the soldier is deployed, he must take the leave within 60 days of returning from deployment. Leave not taken within the established timeframes with be lost.

I, for one, applaud the military's forward thinking on this. It's nice to see the kinder, gentler military being realized. (Ha, you probably thought I was serious there - kinder, gentler - uh-huh.) Honestly, there are a lot of companies/corporations who could learn a thing or two from this decidedly pro-family - pro-dad - policy.


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