Military officials in the Pacific are bracing for emergency leave requests as the toll of Hurricane Katrina becomes known in coming days and weeks.
Chief Warrant Officer Todd Guynn, with the 516th Personnel Services Battalion on Yongsan Garrison in South Korea, said there was no information on how many troops across the peninsula had applied for emergency leave in the days immediately following the storm.
Emergency leave normally is granted only if a death is involved. If there is no death, Guynn said, an officer ranked 0-5 or higher must sign the leave form.
The military will pay the commercial round-trip cost for the soldier and command-sponsored family members to and from a major hub on the West Coast, usually Seattle, he said. Once there, however, the servicemember is responsible for paying the rest of the way to the destination.
And the leave isn’t free, Guynn stressed, except for the travel time.
Once a soldier lands at the West Coast airport, the leave days are taken from his or her annual leave.
If personnel are within roughly 60 days of their rotation date from Korea — and have their next assignment already in the system — they are eligible for an emergency permanent change of station.
Sam Miller, civilian human resources officer at Sasebo Naval Base, Japan, who himself is waiting to hear from family members in New Orleans, said Thursday that no requests for emergency travel to devastated areas had crossed his desk yet.
He said people seem to realize “there’s probably no way to land in those areas and, even if they could, there’s little they could do.”
Chip Steitz, a spokesman for Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Pacific, said its workers can request “educator leave” from administrators if they “are facing a personal emergency and need to return to the United States” because of Katrina deaths or damage.