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Soldiers say the Army's new paternity leave policy relieves a burden for couples who want to have children.
The Army now entitles married active-duty and Active Guard and Reserve soldiers who father a child to 10 consecutive nonchargeable administrative days of paternity leave.
"I'd been stationed unaccompanied for the past four years away from my wife so it was hard for us to start a family," said Sgt. 1st Class Logan McKenzie of 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, N.Y., who was stationed in Italy. His wife gave birth to their first child in January through an in vitro fertilization program at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
The paternity leave policy, he said, "was an exceptional program for me and my wife because I spent probably about 45 days on leave going back and forth to the program at Walter Reed so the 10 days really helped out," he said.
The militarywide policy is a welcome first for many soldiers.
Maj. Rodney Von Price used his leave in March to help his other two children get ready for school and out the door in the morning while his wife recovered from the caesarian section birth of their third child.
"I'm glad they've created a system where I can have the time necessary to do that," said Price, who works in the U.S. Army Inspector General Agency at the Pentagon. "It's exactly what soldiers need to deal with their private lives."
The Defense Department policy was included in the National Defense Reauthorization Act of 2009 and implementation guidance announced internally on March 10 in an All Army Activity message.
The entitlement does not apply to single soldiers who have fathered a child out of wedlock, nor parents of newly adopted children which is covered under a separate policy.
The use-or-lose 10-day leave must be taken within 45 days of the birth of the child. Soldiers who are deployed during the birth of a child can take paternity leave within 60 days of redeployment, in addition to whatever mid-tour leave their commanders may arrange with them separately in accordance with the needs of their mission.
"What was proposed was 21 days," said Col. Larry Lock, Army chief of compensation and entitlements for the G-1. "The congressional compromise, if you will, was 10 consecutive days," he said.
"We've never had an internal policy problem for soldiers being released and using their own leave," he added.
The policy has been grandfathered for soldiers who were charged annual leave in conjunction with the birth of a child on or after Oct. 14, but before the Army instructions were issued March 10.
"I though it was a wonderful addition for soldiers," McKenzie said.