By Rob McIlvaine, FMWRC Public AffairsJune 16, 2009
The Army's new paternity leave policy gives fathers additional time to be with their Families when a child is born.
The policy, signed into law under President George W. Bush on Oct. 14, 2008 grants married Soldiers up to 10 consecutive days of non-chargeable administrative leave after the birth of a child.
Maj. Rodney Price, currently with the U.S. Army Inspector General Agency, has spent 23 years in the Army - three as a paratrooper, followed by a tour as Infantry Drill Sergeant before being commissioned as an Adjutant General Officer. He remembers what having a baby was like before this new law.
"When our now nine-year-old daughter, Fiona was born, I was a Battalion S-3. I was only able to take a day-and-a-half off work to be with my wife, who experienced a horrible delivery and was in pain for nearly a year following the birth. I can't tell you how many times since then I've wished I could have been there for her in a more meaningful way. I'm not sure a ten-day paternity leave would have provided everything we needed, but it would have been better than what we got," Price remembered.
Recognizing the importance of Families being together during significant events such as the birth of a child, the Army has developed a flexible paternity leave policy that allows male Soldiers to support their spouses during the joyous, but possibly stressful, time of adjustment following the arrival of a new family member.
This new policy also provides Soldiers returning from deployments uninterrupted time with their child to begin building bonds that will last a lifetime.
The policy allows Soldiers who have taken annual leave in connection with the birth of a child since October 2008 to request up to 10 days of leave be restored/re-credited to their leave account. Soldiers must provide documentation to support their claim (e.g., DA Form 31 or LES) and submit it through the unit S1 or Personnel Administrative Center.
Paternity leave must be taken within 45 days of the child's birth; deployed Soldiers must take the leave within 60 days after returning from deployment. Leave not taken within the established timeframe will be lost.
Single Soldiers who father a child out-of-wedlock are not eligible for paternity leave. For those who adopt, the Army Adoption Program that has its own non-chargeable leave policy of three weeks.
"The first opportunity I had to really bond with Fiona came 18 months later when we PCSd from South Carolina to California and she and I drove across the country together," Price said.
The story was the same with their second child.
"Our son Shane was born while I was a student at the Defense Language Institute. Again, there was not much opportunity to take time away from the classroom without getting too far behind to recover. Although difficult, this delivery was not as difficult as the first. With support from our Family, we made it through. Again, a ten-day absence to be with my wife and two children would have eased a lot of the stresses in the Family."
Soldiers and officers are encouraged to take advantage of this valuable Family bonding opportunity and supervisors and commanders at all levels should approve paternity leave whenever it is feasible.
Paternity Leave provides greater stability and predictability to Soldiers and their Families. By providing a benefit that is increasingly more common in the civilian sector, the Army is building on its reputation as an organization that takes care of its Families.
The opportunity finally came about for Maj. Price to enjoy the birth of their third child.
"Actually, I had just finished up as aide-de-camp and was on regular leave - seven days after baby Valerie was born, the Army policy for paternity leave was released so I was able to get the paperwork adjusted."
The parental leave provision was put in the 2009 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) authorization bill at the urging of the U.S. Navy and with the backing of Sens. James Inhofe, R-Okla., and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. Until then, none of the services had the authority to grant non-chargeable paternity leave.
"There's no feeling quite like holding your new baby girl. I am really glad that the services are doing more than just talking about supporting our Families. Army Families do a lot for the Army and it's appropriate for the Army to do something to support the Family. Kudos to the folks who helped make this a reality," Price said.