Military Members Travel Free On Leave From Alaska
Fort Wainwright, Eielson Air Force Base, and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson are military bases in Alaska. They aren’t the only U.S. military operations there, but it’s where many typically serve when given PCS orders to Alaska.
Now, thanks to the 2023 Defense Authorization Act, troops stationed in Alaska can fly back to the “lower 48” and have their travel reimbursed by the Federal Government.
Joint Travel Regulations Modified for New Rule
The federal government’s official site Defense.gov includes Joint Travel Regulations, which have been modified to accommodate the new rule, which is described as follows:
“(A) mandatory provision of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 to reimburse eligible Armed Forces members the cost of airfare from the member’s permanent duty station (PDS) to their home of record when they are assigned to a PDS in Alaska and travel is authorized by an office of the pay grade O-5 and above…”
Paid Travel to the Lower 48 States From Alaska
Careful reading of the above reveals two very important things: One, It’s not a permanent offer.
Good from December 2022 to the end of 2023, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2023 requires the federal government to reimburse “permanent party” military members (those who have relocated there on Permanent Change of Station or PCS orders) for leave-related travel back to the servicemember’s home of record.
Two, this travel reimbursement is offered ONLY for travel to the home of record and the travel must be “authorized by an officer above the grade of O-5,” according to a memo from the Pentagon’s Per Diem, Travel and Transportation Allowance Committee.
This reimbursement is a one-time-only military benefit.
Those who have already purchased tickets to their home of record before knowing this military travel reimbursement benefit are not left out. You can apply for reimbursement if you purchased tickets between December 2022 and the end of 2023.
Why the Benefit Was Created
Military assignments in Alaska are considered more challenging than assignments in the lower 48 states. There are a variety of issues, including extreme cold, limited daylight, and isolation. Alaska has an elevated suicide rate (third highest in the nation at press time), and there have been past issues with suicide in the ranks among those assigned to bases in Alaska.
There have been many efforts to address this problem, including morale-building programs like the free travel option discussed here.
About the author
Editor-in-Chief Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter/editor for Air Force Television News and the Pentagon Channel. His freelance work includes contract work for Motorola, VALoans.com, and Credit Karma. He is co-founder of Dim Art House in Springfield, Illinois, and spends his non-writing time as an abstract painter, independent publisher, and occasional filmmaker.