Air Force prioritizes family values with Vance commanders as leading examples

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Christopher Ornelas Jr.
  • 71st Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. – Maj. Alayna Holt, 71st Comptroller Squadron commander, was the first at Vance Air Force Base to use the expanded military parental-leave program for Airmen and Guardians.

Following the birth of her daughter in early December 2022, Holt, and her husband, Maj. Zachary Jarvis, 71st Security Forces Squadron commander, were grateful to be a part of a team that fully supported their caregiver leave.

Although Holt and Jarvis became parents before the new policy became effective, Dec. 27, 2022, senior leadership at Vance Air Force Base approved caregiver leave in the spirit of the new policy.

The updated policy authorizes birth parents 12 weeks of caregiver leave following a health-provider recommended period of convalescent leave.
“It’s such a special time to bond with your new child and figure out how to be a first-time parent,” said Holt. “I’m thankful that I took that time.”

Under the previous policy, birth parents received six weeks of caregiver leave following their convalescent leave. But if caregiver leave was not taken immediately after the birth of a child it would be lost.

Non-birth parents received only 21 days of caregiver leave compared to the new policy which authorizes non-birth parents 12 weeks of caregiver leave following the birth of their child.

As a male caregiver, it’s a positive step forward from only 21 days of caregiver leave, said Jarvis.

“The policy is well written in that the leave can be taken in segments of seven days at a time,” said Jarvis. If mission requirements prevent taking the full 12 weeks at once, it can be spread out after the birth of the child.

“Leadership at Vance was supportive of taking ordinary leave in conjunction with my wife’s caregiver leave,” said Jarvis. “We were able to go back home and introduce our daughter to the family. The extra time gave us the opportunity to secure childcare once we returned to work.”

“The bond between a child and a parent is special and those first few months are critical to the formation of a bond that will last a lifetime,” said Col Jay Johnson, 71st Flying Training Wing commander. “I think the new policy is a step in the right direction and will have a positive impact on recruitment and retention.”

“Find what works best for your situation,” said Holt. “If that is not taking all 12 weeks at the same time, that’s okay. But take advantage of the great benefits we have.” 

Holt was initially skeptical about being able to take off so much time from work, especially as a squadron commander. But she realized the importance of setting a precedent. 

“I reached out to a fellow squadron commander at a different base who had a child a couple of weeks after I did,” said Holt. “She was in the same boat as me, unsure about taking so much time off.”

Both Holt and Jarvis felt it was important to demonstrate the value of what the Air Force was offering parents. “If I’m taking my caregiver leave, I’m showing my folks that it is important,” said Jarvis. “And I expect them to take caregiver leave when that time comes for them.”

Holt and Jarvis are optimistic that their Airmen will see that if their commanders can utilize the new policy, so can they.

“The right thing to do is to take this time to be with your family, because at the end of the day, at the end of the year, at the end of your career, your family is still going to be by your side,” said Holt. “However long you choose to serve, at the end of that time, you want your family there.”

“Major Holt and Major Jarvis are setting a fantastic example for Team Vance Airman to follow,” said Johnson. “They’ve proven that we’ll continue to do what we’ve always done, rally around each other to balance the demands of service to our country and obligations to care for our families.”

“I think the new policy shows we are committed to Airmen,” said Jarvis. “We recruit Airmen but we retain families.”