Military members often wonder why they have to fulfill additional requirements in order to take leave outside the continental United States, whether it’s Aircraft and Personnel Automated Clearance system, theater, country clearance or other requirements put in place. Some of the responses I hear on a regular basis are: “It’s just leave, not official travel.” “Base X does not have to do this when they submit for leave travel.” While there are various DoD and Air Force regulations mandating these requirements, the main reason is to protect and prevent our personnel from having an uncomfortable experience.
Late last year, I helped an Airman from the 355th Medical Group who was preparing her documents for emergency travel to the Philippines. Obviously she was greatly concerned for her family member and wanted to depart the United States as soon as possible, thus this Airman also questioned the process since she had never been required to accomplish the needed steps in the past. I walked her through the process and aided her in completing all the needed documents required for her country and theater clearances.
A few months later, the Airman approached me to thank me for the assistance in preparing her emergency leave travel documents per the foreign clearance guide. As the member initiated travel to the Philippines, she was asked at the port of debarkation for her passport and other documents regarding theater clearance, country clearance and her documents stating she had the appropriate approvals from her unit. Additionally, she was also stopped when entering the Philippines at the international terminal and once again asked for approved APACs documents and other pertinent information required entering the country. At any of these two points, her travel would have ended if she did not have the proper documents and approvals in hand.
Even though a service member might not get asked for these documents every time when traveling outside the continental United States, wouldn’t you prefer to have them in hand than have your trip cut short or get denied entry. Worst case scenario is that you, the DoD, traveler did not accomplish the requirements as outlined by the foreign clearance guide and get in trouble in the country you are visiting. Remember that we are members of the US Government. As a military member you might not be protected by a status of forces agreement or other agreement with the country you are visiting and as a result you would be subject to their laws. Additionally, these forms are not optional for military members and you could wind up facing disciplinary action. Bottom line, the requirements are there to benefit you and might end up saving your and your family’s lives.
Remember, it is best to lose five minutes of your life than to lose your life in five minutes!
As a DoD member there are certain guidelines one must follow in order to be able to take leisure or leave travel. These requirements are outlined in the Foreign Clearance Guide which can be access at the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base Antiterrorism SharePoint page.