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Soldiers lose vacation time in 20 locations

Apr. 27, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
A soldier sand skis down a sand dune slope in Qatar. The Defense Department has cut R&R trips for soldiers on 12-month deployments in 20 locations, including Qatar.
A soldier sand skis down a sand dune slope in Qatar. The Defense Department has cut R&R trips for soldiers on 12-month deployments in 20 locations, including Qatar. (Spc. Sean Kimmons / Army)
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Beginning June 1, soldiers deploying for 12 months to certain countries across the globe will have to go without their two-week rest and recuperation leave.

The change is being sparked by a recent Defense Department decision to remove 20 areas from its list of locations that qualify for imminent danger pay.

However, for those of you who are already deployed, your R&R could still be salvaged.

What you need to know:

■ What leave is affected? The Rest and Recuperation Leave Program is allocated for troops in an area that is designated for hostile fire or imminent danger pay, according to the DoD instruction on leave and liberty policy and procedures.

Qualifying troops also must be on unaccompanied tours and be in an area where ordinary annual leave programs have been restricted.

R&R leave is limited to one per 12-month period for those assigned to an approved R&R duty location. Troops assigned or deployed to an approved location for 18 months or longer are authorized one additional R&R leave period after the 18-month point.

■ What has changed? In January, DoD removed 20 areas from its list of locations that qualify for imminent danger pay. The pay change is effective June 1, affecting about 50,000 troops.

As of June 1, service members deployed to these areas no longer qualify for the $225 monthly imminent danger stipend.

What areas no longer qualify? Locations affected include the land areas and airspace above Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Serbia and Montenegro. Also on the list are East Timor, Liberia, Haiti, Oman, Rwanda, Tajikistan, United Arab Emirates, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.

Also removed are the water areas of the Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman, and the Red Sea, and the water area and airspace above the Persian Gulf.

■ What hasnít changed? Imminent danger pay will continue for Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Jordan, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen and Egypt and troops deployed to these locations for a year will continue to earn R&R.

■ Whatís next? DoD is evaluating a request from Central Command to grandfather troops who deploy to some of these countries before June 1. CENTCOM has requested exceptions be made for troops in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, a defense official said.

■ Who is affected? Most soldiers deploy for nine months, which means they donít qualify for the two-week R&R leave anyway. But some soldiers, including those in air defense artillery units and those who deploy as individual augmentees, still do 12-month tours.

As news of the change in R&R policy has spread, soldiers who were already deployed and counting on that leave time sounded off on Facebook to voice their complaints and call the policy change a morale killer.

Others viewed it differently.

ďNo enemy contact, no combat pay? Sounds good to me,Ē one soldier wrote.

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