It's official: Soldiers will now receive up to 12 weeks of maternity leave after giving birth.
That's more than double the Army's previous policy, which gave female soldiers six weeks of post-pregnancy convalescent leave.
What remains unchanged are how much time new mothers have before they are deployable again and the Army's rules for new fathers.
New mothers are still non-deployable for up to six months.
New fathers are allowed a non-chargeable administrative absence of no more than 10 days. That time must be taken consecutively and within 45 days of the child's birth. Deployed soldiers have 60 days after they return from their deployment to use the 10 days of paternity leave; if the leave is not used within the established timeframe, that leave is lost.
In addition, paternity leave is authorized only for a married soldier on active duty, including Title 10 and Title 32 Active Guard and Reserve duty, whose wife gives birth to a child. It cannot be applied to single soldiers fathering a child out of wedlock.
The directive regarding the new maternity leave policy, signed Tuesday by Acting Army Secretary Patrick Murphy, follows a force-wide policy announced Jan. 28 by Defense Secretary Ash Carter. Carter's announcement granted women 12 weeks of maternity leave and created a DoD-wide policy on a matter that was for many years left up to the individual services.
"The Army fully supports DoD's decision to provide women across the joint force up to 12 weeks of fully paid maternity leave," said Paul Prince, an Army spokesman. "This is about taking care of our soldiers and their families. There are important missions to accomplish worldwide, and women soldiers are among those capable to achieve them. We honor their commitment to serve by ensuring they have the resources to be ready and resilient and to take care of their family members."
More than 6,000 active-duty soldiers gave birth in fiscal year 2015, Prince said.
Here's a closer look at the Army's new policy.
• Murphy signed the directive Tuesday, but the policy went into effect Feb. 2.
• Commanders will authorize up to 12 continuous weeks of non-chargeable maternity leave for active Army soldiers as well as reserve component soldiers who are on call or order to active service for a continuous period of at least one year. The 12-week leave period starts immediately after a birth or the mother's release from the hospital, whichever is later.
• Troop Program Unit soldiers in the National Guard and Army Reserve are not eligible for maternity leave. Instead, they are excused from any weekend battle assemblies and annual training that take place within 84 days of giving birth.
• Commanders cannot disapprove maternity leave.
• Soldiers who were already on maternity convalescent leave on Feb. 2 will be given 42 additional days of leave.
• Soldiers who were on regular leave on Feb. 2 in conjunction with maternity leave can convert that time off into non-chargeable maternity leave. They also can extend their maternity leave, but their total time off cannot be more than 84 days.
• Soldiers who were on maternity leave on Feb. 2 but have since returned to duty are authorized to return to a leave status. These soldiers will take the remaining leave as continuous non-chargeable maternity leave. They also are authorized to convert any regular leave they took in conjunction with maternity leave into non-chargeable maternity leave. The total days of leave cannot be more than 84 days.
Michelle Tan is the editor of Army Times and Air Force Times. She has covered the military for Military Times since 2005, and has embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Haiti, Gabon and the Horn of Africa.