Consider the following scenario:
You just got your PCS orders from Norfolk to Washington DC. Besides being overjoyed to spend the next three years of your life slaving away in the Pentagon, you are looking forward to getting to know a new area, meet new people, and see all the monuments in DC that you only briefly saw on a high school field trip.
Never having been to DC, you ask your boss for house hunting leave. He hems and haws, and eventually tells you to take it after you PCS, since your gaining command will be more than happy to give you the time off. So you detach, arrive at your new command...and get instantly slammed into your job. You take your own personal time after work and on the weekends to find a place.
Familiar? I've heard (and experienced) this story all too often.
The problem is two-fold: first, house hunting "leave" doesn't exist. Second, most people have never read the instruction.
There are different types of leave, but none of them are house hunting leave. What people should say instead is "Permissive TAD for house hunting." This is VERY different from leave. When you go on leave, you are technically on an "authorized absence" from your command. When you go home from work, until you come back the next day, you are technically on liberty, which is "routinely authorized absence."
Confused yet? To make it more simple:
- Liberty means you are staying in the area of your work, and can return to work in a reasonable amount of time (typically, less than 150 miles)
- Leave means you are NOT staying in the area, and you are not able to come into work quickly
Now that we've gone through that, realize that house hunting is neither of these.
The instruction that governs it is MILPERSMAN 1320-210, located here:
The instruction authorizes your detaching command to give you up to 10 days of permissive temporary additional duty (TAD) to go find a place to live, assuming you have PCS orders and are moving out of the area, or moving to an afloat unit.
The advantage of being TAD instead of leave is that once leave ends, you have to report to the command that issued you the leave. TAD orders can be written so that you report to your new command. So you can detach from your command, find a place to live, and then report to your new command without having to backtrack or spend any of your accrued leave.
So, if there is an instruction on this, why do I hear constant stories of people being denied the opportunity to house hunt? A few reasons come to mind:
1. Most people don't realize there is an instruction. They think its some kind of backdoor good deal you're supposed to get.
2. Not knowing about the instruction, too many commands are lazy and don't want to write you temporary orders, so they are more than happy for you to take a crap answer and get out of their hair.
3. Once you get to a command, they want you to work. They only get you for 2-3 years, so they want to make the most out of your time.
How do you prevent getting screwed? A couple of tips:
1. Read the instruction. It's small (6 pages), and it spells out exactly what you are and aren't allowed to do.
2. Ask for the TAD orders early, preferably as soon as you get PCS orders. It's easier to get your command to do something when you aren't scrambling last minute.
3. When you get the inevitable crap answer about not granting you orders, print out the instruction and get them to sign a memo saying that you need 10 days upon arrival at your new command. This does two things: it often gets them to back down and give you orders (nobody likes signing their name to a letter), and it guarantees your new command will understand that you got stiffed and will let you find a place.
We have house hunting TAD for a reason: we constantly move our people and they need a few days to find a place to live. That is reasonable, hence it being covered in an instruction. Take the time that you are authorized for so that you can be properly focused at work.
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