The Defense Department has announced that Iraq and Afghanistan have been designated as nonchargeable rest and recuperation (NCR&R) locations, authorizing service members deployed there (for 270 days or more) 15 days of administrative absence, to be used in conjunction with benefits provided under the R&R leave program.

"This designation provides an additional benefit specifically for those service members deployed to the most arduous combat areas," said Sam Retherford, director of Officer and Enlisted Personnel Management. "Administrative absence days, in conjunction with government-funded transportation for R&R, allow service members to save and use their annual leave for reintegration with their Families and communities when they return home."

Administrative absence days are contingent upon mission requirements and are only authorized for those service members who participate in the NCR&R program. NCR&R benefits for Iraq and Afghanistan are effective March 23, following under secretary of defense (personnel and readiness) approval of Central Command's request.

Each combatant command may request the under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness to designate additional locations for NCR&R, provided they meet all of the following eligibility criteria:

* The area / location must be a location where U.S. forces have been engaged in combat operations against a hostile force within the last six months and where actual combat operations are expected to continue.

* The area / location must meet R&R leave program criteria.

* The area / location must be a combat zone designated by presidential executive order.

* The area / location must be an area where service members are exposed to the most arduous conditions (for example, those locations authorized Hardship Duty Pay).