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Air Force extends parental leave

As a new father of twins, 552nd Operational Support Squadron’s Capt. Jeremy Perry was already a happy Airman.

Now he’s feeling doubly blessed after discovering the Air Force has changed its parental leave policy allowing for more options for Airmen and their families.

“I was deployed when I first found out my wife was pregnant with the twins, so I looked to find out how much paternity leave was available.  At that time it was 10 days for the Air Force, but I knew other branches of the military received 21 days,” Perry said.

Fortunately for Perry, the policy, authorized by the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, is retroactive to Dec. 23, 2016.

“I was told (the new policy) wouldn’t pass before my babies were born, but I was recently informed I now get 21 days off, which is awesome because I get to spend more time with them,” Perry said.

The Air Force recently passed the new policy which states, effective immediately, maternity convalescent leave and primary caregiver leave are each six weeks long. Secondary caregiver leave is three weeks. Every birth mother will have convalescent leave and Airmen have one year to use their extended leave.

The policy outlines three forms of leave for qualifying births or adoptions, including maternity convalescent leave, primary caregiver leave and secondary caregiver leave for mothers, fathers, same-sex couples, adoptive and surrogate parents.

Perry said the addition of 11 more days of paternal leave will allow him to be home with the babies when his wife, Katherine, travels for her work as a recruiter at the University of Oklahoma.

“I’ll be able to take some time off and not have to worry about juggling the kids and everything all at once,” he said. “Take every advantage you can. It is great to be able to spend that time with your kids, especially with your first children.

“It is super important that both parents are home and available. I’m so excited just to spend some more time at home with them.”

Tinker AFB Child and Youth Services Flight Chief Mary Duncan said she believes the extended leave is important for new parents and helps to tighten the family bond.

“Especially in the early years, I think it is important,” Duncan said. “I’m a mom myself, and any extra time that moms and dads are able to spend with their children during those early years is important.”

She said that new parents who need childcare should sign up as soon as possible because there are waiting lists for childcare slots on base. Parents can sign up their children at militarychildcare.com.

For more information on the Military Leave Program, contact the Air Force Total Force Service Center at 1-800-565-0102.