NAVAL STATION ROTA, Spain — U.S. servicemembers on the front lines are getting a break on their growing leave time.

A new Defense Department rule lets military personnel carry over 120 days of leave — 30 days more than previously allowed — across fiscal years. The new regulation, which went into effect less than two weeks ago, applies to all branches of service.

The Navy put out a memo Oct. 29 explaining the changes.

“This is a good opportunity to the sailor that they don’t lose the leave that they’ve earned,” said Lt. j.g. Kyle Raines, a spokesman for the Navy’s Chief of Naval Personnel in Washington, D.C. “It recognizes the arduous duty and the operational commitment that they’re under.”

American troops have deployed often in the last three years, making it difficult for some to take all the time off they have on the books. There are about 150,000 troops in Iraq and about 20,000 soldiers in Afghanistan. In addition, the Navy has dispatched ships on short-notice deployments in the past year.

A servicemember with too much leave can get into a use-or-lose situation if they continue accumulating time off without taking a break. Troops earn 30 days’ leave each year.

Eligible personnel who want to carry their leave to the next fiscal year must request it from their command. Requests must be submitted no later than the end of the first quarter of the following fiscal year.

Military members must keep an eye on their leave so that they can make the request, if they choose, officials warn.

“The onus is on the sailor to let the command know this,” said Lt. Spencer Cook, assistant for military pay and compensation, chief of naval personnel.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now