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Contract flights to resume for CENTCOM R&R program

Army News Service

Release Date: 5/26/2004

By Joe Burlas

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, May 26, 2004) -- The Army plans to resume military contract rest and recuperation flights from the Central Command area of operations to the United States on or about June 15, according to officials.

Acting Secretary of the Army Les Brownlee approved the plan May 26.

The CENTCOM R&R Program initially used military contract flights into Rhein/Main Air Force Base, Germany, which then continued to Baltimore-Washington International Airport, Largo, Md., when it started at the end of September. An additional flight into Atlanta that continued to Dallas was added at the end of October -- allowing almost 600 CENTCOM Soldiers a day to take 15 days leave away from the stress of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Though the R&R Program continued on a smaller scale through the rotation of forces in and out of CENTCOM in recent months, the contract flights were suspended Feb. 1 due to operational requirements of that rotation, said Col. Paris Mack, G1's Task Force R&R chief.

The program has been averaging about 80 Soldiers going on R&R a day since the contract flights stopped. They have been using regular scheduled commercial flights out of Kuwait City, Mack said.

The drop in numbers of those using the program has been primarily due to a significantly smaller pool of those eligible, Mack said. That pool is now larger as most units in the second OIF rotation have been in theater for several months now.

Eligibility requires Soldiers to have been deployed to CENTCOM for at least three months, but not more than 11 when taking the R&R leave. Additionally, commanders must approve the requested leave.

The Army plans to have two R&R contracted flights out of Kuwait City on a daily basis. One will fly to Rhein/Main and then to Atlanta. The other flight will fly directly to Dallas.

Mack noted that the program is also open to and has been used by members of other services and Department of Defense civilians.

The Atlanta and Dallas airports were selected as the U.S. aerial ports of debarkation as most of the units in the second OIF rotation are based in the Southern and Southeast United States, Mack said.

"Our intent is get these Soldiers to their friends and loved ones as soon as possible so they can take full advantage of their leave," Mack said.

The R&R leave starts the day after the Soldier clears customs at the Germany or U.S. APODs as the day they arrive at the airport is considered a travel day. Human Resources Command will have personnel teams at the airports to sign Soldiers on and off leave.

While the BWI airport is not scheduled to be used as an R&R APOD with the resumed flights, Mack said, it will continue to be used for other military travel.

When the R&R program started, the contract flights delivered Soldiers to Rhein/Main, BWI, Atlanta or Dallas at government expense and Soldiers were responsible for paying their way to final leave destinations. Congress provided additional funding late last fall to pay all travel costs to and from the leave address of CENTCOM R&R Soldiers. That onward travel funding is not restricted to the Soldiers home or home of record address.

If a Soldier wants use his R&R leave for a vacation in Australia, onward travel will reimburse that airfare, Mack said.

About 60,000 Soldiers, DoD civilians and other service members deployed to the CENTOM area of operations have used the R&R program.

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