By Cmdr. Colin Kennedy. Commander Navy Reserve Force Director for Force Travel
NORFOLK, Va. — Reserve Sailors must be legally called to and detached from active duty status by an official order. There are only two organizations in the Navy that issue Reservists such orders: the Bureau of Personnel (BUPERS) and Commander, Navy Reserve Force (CNRF).
BUPERS calls Reservists to an active duty status for initial entry training (recruit training and follow-on schools), mobilizations, definite and indefinite recalls, and Active Duty for Operational Support (ADOS). CNRF calls Sailors to an active duty status for Annual Training (AT) and Active Duty for Training (ADT). CNRF also uses its orders writing functionality to place Sailors in an Inactive Duty Training Travel (IDTT) status in support of inactive duty at alternate drilling locations, if applicable.
While IDTT can help Reservists get to and from an alternate drilling location, the inactive duty itself is part of a separate standing inactive duty order issued by BUPERS and managed in the Navy Standard Integrated Personnel System’s (NSIPS) Enhancement for Drill Management (EDM) module.
Ninety-five percent of Reserve orders are for AT, ADT, and IDTT, making CNRF the administrator for the overwhelming majority of orders issued to Reserve personnel. The program for issuing such orders is the Navy Reserve Orders Writing System (NROWS). NROWS links mission, requirement and resource owners at operational commands with the member and their assigned Navy Reserve Activity (NRA).
For example, when the Operational Support Officer (OSO) at an operational command needs a member for training, the OSO writes a requirement for the member in NROWS. Once complete, NROWS notifies the member by email they have a duty assignment waiting for them to apply for. The member completes the application which is followed by a review by the member’s unit, the NRA, and finally the force travel office. Once reviews are complete, the application returns to the OSO for fund approval. While the whole process usually takes 2-3 weeks, it can be greatly accelerated by good communication between stakeholders. Fund approval is the point at which the order becomes a legal direction to the member.
In some cases, a member’s AT or ADT is in the same local area as their permanent residence. In this case the process is complete, and once endorsed by the supported command, the orders will allow for the member to receive their pay and allowances.
Most of the time, however, travel outside of the member’s local area is required. If the orders are for a period of 139 days or less, NROWS will automatically draft a travel authorization in the Defense Travel System (DTS) for the member. The member can then login to DTS and use it to reserve flights, lodging and rental cars (if authorized), and account for expected expenses such as mileage, parking, taxi fares and tolls.
Once submitted and approved, DTS travel authorization is exactly that — authorization to travel in support of the duty assignment. NROWS and DTS go hand in hand for about 95% of orders involving travel; with some exceptions, most notably being ADT orders exceeding 139 days in duration.
Once the member arrives at their mission location, they must have their orders endorsed by the supported Command Pay Personnel Administrator (CPPA) for forwarding to the servicing pay and personnel support office.
Reimbursement for travel and transportation expenses takes place after return from the mission. Within five working days of return, but not before, the member — armed with receipts for itemized lodging, airline e-tickets, any expenses over $75 and any other receipts the DTS Approving Official (AO) may require — logs back in to DTS and completes a travel voucher.
Once the AO approves the voucher, payment will be disbursed within three business days. This is the value of DTS; not only does it allow the member commercial-like flexibility in making their travel reservations, but it also facilitates reimbursement faster than under the legacy paper travel claim system.
Each NRA should have a robust indoctrination program for new members including GTCC, NROWS and DTS training. This training may be limited to slide presentations due to time constraints, but there is nothing quite as good as hands-on experience, especially if the member’s first scheduled travel occurs months after the indoctrination training.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Systems are not always intuitive and mistakes can cost money. New travelers should actively seek over-the-shoulder help the first few times they use NROWS and DTS. In fact, members should politely insist on it.
Last but not least, it is vital to point out that members shall not travel without fund approved orders. Regardless of any advice or pressure; or if there were delays or errors in the orders routing process; or if orders were not approved as fast as they should have been; without a fund approved NROWS order in hand, the member is not and cannot be in a duty status.
Except in the rare event of a national or regional emergency for which a competent authority verbally orders a member to commence travel, any costs will be borne by the member and government insurance protection may not be available in the event of accident or injury. Appeals to have orders fund approved retroactively, though such a request may be made, will most likely be disapproved.