Okinawa-Based Sailors, Marines Won’t Lose Leave Earned During COVID-19 Pandemic

Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs (PTDO) Catherine Kessmeier
Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs (PTDO) Catherine Kessmeier, right, listens to U.S. Marine Col. Jeffery Holt, the deputy commander of Marine Corps Installations West, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, at the Pacific Views Event Center on Camp Pendleton, California, July 28, 2020. (Andrew Cortez/U.S. Marine Corps)

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa -- The Navy is allowing sailors and Marines on Okinawa to keep excess use-or-lose leave they accrued during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a recent Navy memo.

Members of the sea service with at least 180 days on Okinawa during the current fiscal year are now entitled to keep up to 120 days of leave when the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.

The change was announced by Catherine Kessmeier, acting assistant secretary of the Navy for manpower and reserve affairs, in a memo Friday.

All active-duty service members earn 30 days of annual leave. Any unused leave in excess of 60 days is lost when the fiscal year ends.

But travel bans, restricted movements and local states of emergency brought on by the coronavirus pandemic meant many sailors and Marines on Okinawa accrued plenty of unused leave over the past year. Many service members' overseas tours were extended, or they were prevented from making stateside visits.

"The Department of the Navy's adherence to the Government of Japan's Coronavirus Disease-2019 travel restrictions has significantly limited the ability of sailors and Marines permanently assigned to Okinawa, Japan, to take leave during the national emergency," Kessmeier wrote.

Kessmeier altered the leave policy by designating service on Okinawa as "other duty" for purposes of special leave accrual, the memo said.

The newly accrued leave must appear on leave and earnings statements at the end of September. Sailors and Marines have until the end of fiscal 2024 to use their excess leave, the memo said.

The U.S. fiscal year begins on Oct. 1 and ends on Sept. 30 of the following calendar year.

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