Navigating Army HR: Part 1
Julia and I have been discussing content for you guys for awhile when we had a spouse reach out to us to ask some Army administrative questions. It was then that Julia realized we should write about some common admin questions because I’ve spent four years as a Human Resources OIC (S1) in the Army! Most of this blog is geared towards the Army, because I do not have experience with AF/Navy/Marine/Coast Guard Admin, so please bear with me. If y'all would like a similar piece written by expert of a different branch, let us know! We will be happy to arrange it.
First, I’ll start with the most common questions that are asked by spouses:
So you and your sweetheart got married. Now what? How does your Soldier get money for housing? How do you get an ID card? What happens next? Here’s the breakdown and order for what needs to happen.
1. Get Married. This one’s on you, babe. Your Soldier only needs the time off from work – otherwise the Army isn’t involved in this piece.
2. Get enrolled in DEERS. Bring in your Marriage Certificate, with your state ID, and sponsor to get enrolled as a dependent in DEERS (I’m speaking non dual military here, we can address dual military in a different post). DEERS should help you fill out the DD1172-2, and once the sponsor signs, you can get your ID card.
3. Stop by the S1 Shop. Your Soldier needs to go to his/her S1 to update their DD93 (Emergency Notification) and can update their SGLI (Service Member’s Group Life Insurance) there or on their own. They should also bring in a copy of the Marriage Certificate to go in their digital Army records, called iPERMS (interactive Personnel Electronic Records Management System).
4. Living Arrangements/Documents to Submit. Next, if your Soldier lived in their barracks, they will need to terminate the barracks before they receive BAH. Once they move out of the barracks, get a memo signed by First Sergeant, they should fill out a form DA 5960 (Request for BAH) to be signed by the commander. The documents required to actually received BAH vary from location to location. The most common combination I’ve seen is the Barracks termination paperwork, the DA Form 5960 signed, and a copy of the Marriage Certificate. Have your Soldier get with their First Sergeant/S1 to verify requirements before aimlessly submitting 5 times (trust me, it happens).
5. Finance. Once your Soldier submits all of their required documents to the S1, it will be processed and sent forward to finance. This requires nothing of your Soldier. I’m only highlighting it because poor S1s everywhere are blamed for delays that can occur with finance. Sometimes finance will kick it back and it becomes a game of ping pong, leaving both the Soldier and the Spouse confused and frustrated. Be patient and keep at it. No matter what, your Soldier will eventually get BAH and will get backpay when it comes through.
1. Your spouse will be paid on the 1st and 15th of the month, unless they specifically opt into once a month.
2. They can view how much they get paid on their LES (Leave and Earnings Statement), accessible on dfas’s website. Your spouse can create a login username and password (but also use their CAC), and share that with you so you can snag their LES if you have questions. The S1 cannot print or view LES.
3. The mid-month LES does not show a breakdown of all the income/taxes. The end of month will, and at the bottom, there is a notes section. It looks like gobbly gook. On the right side, there will be information if there were any changes to the LES (Leave days taken, change in rate for BAH, updates to pay). There’s a lot that goes into the LES, if there’s interest, we might follow up with a LES reading blog.
4. If your spouse gets promoted, their pay increase might not show until the following month. If it’s been greater than 30 days, have your Soldier get with their 1SG/S1 to resolve.
This is highly subjective, varies by unit, and I pray that when I am back to being an S1, we have finally gone digital like the Air Force and Marines. So this is a very loose outline of what it takes to get leave approved.
1. Soldier submits a request to take leave (DA Form 31) to his/her first line supervisor, usually accompanied with an LES to verify number of leave days.
2. The leave form is approved and signed by each echelon required until the commander (final approving authority) signs it.
3. It gets sent to the S1 to have a routing number put on it, and it is placed in a book given to staff duty for the Soldier to sign out on the appropriate day:
If your Soldier is going on pass, they may sign out after the duty day before the pass begins. For example, they can sign out on a Thursday at 1700 for a pass starting Friday.
If your Soldier is taking leave, they must wait until midnight the day the leave starts. If they are taking leave on Friday, they may sign out at 0000 Friday morning, but no earlier.
4. The same staff duty will have the leave form for your Soldier to sign in on when their leave concludes.
5. The S1 determines number of leave days taken (If the Soldier signs back in on a non-duty day, such as Saturday or Sunday, they will not be charged for that day, for example), then it is sent to finance for processing.
Honestly, I could write 20 pages of Army admin. If you guys have specific questions or topics you’d like to see addressed, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be happy to write about it, but I also don’t want to bore all of you with administrative details. Let us know what you want to read about!