JBER: Military pays for Alaska service members' flights home


Service members assigned to Alaska duty stations can take a military-paid flight home, according to a recent Department of Defense policy change.

Per the June 1 update to the Joint Travel Regulations, eligible Alaska service members can be reimbursed for the cost of one round-trip airfare from their duty station to their home of record between Dec. 23, 2022, and Dec. 31, 2031.

“Being an Airman up here, it’s especially difficult to budget for the expensive tickets needed to get home," said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Evan Loper, an aircrew flight equipment journeyman assigned to the 3rd Operations Support Squadron. "The opportunity to go home for free is a privilege most people don’t get. It’s a step in the right direction."

Winters in Alaska can feel long, and the short days and freezing temperatures can impact mental health. The state is home to three of the nine bases investigated by a Pentagon committee in 2022 for their high number of confirmed suicides.

In a 2022 interview with Alaska Public Media, U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Eifler, 11th Airborne Division and U.S. Army Alaska commander, said the distance from home and the expense of tickets are two issues that may affect Soldiers’ mental health, and combined with the cold and dark, can be contributing factors towards depression when living in the north.

“A resilient force is a ready force,” said Chief Master Sgt. Daniel Guzman, the 673d Air Base Wing command chief. “We are extremely thankful for this policy update and look forward to our Airmen benefiting from it, especially during the holiday season and winter months when air travel can be financially difficult to attain.”

Alaska lawmakers lauded the DoD policy change for its contribution towards alleviating the stress service members face when adapting to the state and being away from their families and loved ones.

“We know that isolation from families and support systems contributes to mental health struggles,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska in a press release on June 14. “This DoD announcement marking the start of the free flight home – a provision I fought hard to include in last year’s NDAA – will make a real, positive difference in the quality of life for our service members.”

Service members looking to utilize this service for their next trip home will be charged leave and must request their travel through the Defense Travel System. They need to be in leave status during the proposed dates of travel.

Those who have already completed travel to their home of record during the eligibility period can be retroactively reimbursed for their airfare.

To file the request for future leave or to be reimbursed for leave already taken, service members must create a routine TDY authorization in the DTS system.

Some key notes when applying for the program are:

  • Flights are for service members only
  • Tickets must be purchased through DTS
  • Memorandum authorizing the HOR Travel
  • Retroactive reimbursement is authorized for tickets purchased between Dec. 23, 2022, and June 14, 2023

By:  Senior Airman J. Michael Peña
Source: JBER