Taking a break from the Air Force
KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Being in the U.S. military can be a tough balance between career and family. For some, it comes down to the choice of one or the other; however, for former U.S. Air Force Capt. Katie Evans, 18th Force Support Squadron manpower and personnel flight commander, it's about keeping both.
Evans took a sabbatical from her U.S. Air Force career using the Career Intermission Pilot Program. The program offers a limited number of enlisted and officer Airmen to temporarily separate from their commitment to the U.S. Air Force for up to three years.
"I was pregnant when the program was announced," Evans said. "My son was born 2 days after the application window opened."
As an officer, Evans is expected to lead, mentor and develop her troops. Due to the stress of the job and raising a family at the same time, she felt incapable of performing to her utmost. While pregnant she couldn't deploy, participate in exercises and couldn't perform physical training.
"At the same time my body was heavily stressed," Evans explained. "Sending me to the hospital several times and landing my son in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for 10 days shortly after birth."
Upon return from her maternity leave breastfeeding consumed on average up to three hours of her duty day.
"I didn't feel like I could actually do what the Air Force was paying me to do," she explained. "Speaking from an officer's point of view, in addition to wanting to have a family and being pregnant on active duty, being able to truly focus [upon return] on what the Air Force is paying me to do is probably the biggest reason for me to do this program.
"I missed meetings, briefings and important milestones for my folks," she continued. "I could've separated in February 2016 and heavily considered it, but now I don't have to choose between growing our family and continuing to serve."
The personalist initially found out about the program through her friends and was one of the 20 officers selected for the highly competitive inaugural pilot program.
"I think I was one of the 32 folks in the pilot group because I have maintained a consistent performance over the course of my career and conveyed my strong desire to continue serving our country," Evans said. "I am extremely blessed."
40 Airmen, split equally between officer and enlisted, throughout the entire Air Force were allowed to participate in the program. Out of those 32 are actually participating in the program.
"It's pretty much what your records look like as it meets the board," Evans explained.
"You don't get to talk to them and you don't write a letter to them other than the reason that you want to take the sabbatical. So really, it's whatever you have done in your career to this point that speaks for itself."
The reasons submitted for the sabbatical by other participants were diverse.
"Some may think it's just 'mommy' leave," Evans said. "It's not. I would recommend it to folks who would like to focus on a specific period of their life for a time, whether it's a spiritual focus, where they might want to do mission work or an education focus without trying to balance deployments, families, exercises and temporary deployments and all their mission requirements."
With the military losing highly skilled individuals to early separation incentives throughout the years there was a notion to retain those who only needed a short period in their lives to attain their goals.
"This is really for folks who would like to focus on a different part of their life for a period of time but also feel they have more to contribute to the Air Force and the mission," Evans said. "Recognizing that whatever they take this break to do, what they learn to do, whatever experiences they've had can be of huge value to the U.S. Air Force when they come back."
Although the program offers a temporary release from duty, Airmen are expected to repay double the time taken for the sabbatical.
"I requested two years," Evans said. "So I will owe four when I get back."
Since she is now temporarily separated under CIP, the mother of one now goes by Mrs. Evans.
"It's a little nerve wracking for someone that served for 13 years straight, put on the uniform every day, to introduce myself as misses instead of captain or Airman," Evans said. "It's a huge adjustment; I already miss it, the people and being a part of the mission. It's tough to step away from that, but I know I am coming back to it."
*The second application period for the CIP will be held Aug. 15 to Oct. 15, and the selection panel will meet in November. For more information on the Career Intermission Program, visit http://www.af.mil/News/ArticleDisplay/tabid/223/Article/486908/af-implements-career-intermission-pilot-program.aspx or contact your local force support squadron for details on how to apply.