What is TDY?

December 28, 2022
What is TDY?

If you’ve spent any time in the military or around someone in the military, you know acronyms are used all the time. This can be confusing and overwhelming when you’re not sure what a certain acronym means.

One acronym you’ll most likely hear at some point is “TDY.” If you’ve asked yourself, “What is TDY?” I can help you out. In this article, I’ll explain what TDY means, a different type of TDY, and what TDY is in the Army and the Air Force.

What Does TDY Mean?

Let’s start with the question, “What does TDY mean?” At its most basic definition, TDY stands for temporary duty. You might have been expecting three words since the acronym has three letters but that’s not the case for this one, it’s just temporary duty.

So, what does temporary duty mean? Temporary duty is anytime a military employee is assigned to serve somewhere other than their permanent duty station, which is where they are permanently based. The service member almost always goes back to their permanent duty station when the TDY orders are complete.

TDY orders are generally less than six months and almost all expenses for the service member are covered. This includes lodging and travel as well as a daily per diem rate. Per diem pay is designed to cover meals and many other incidental expenses.

There are a lot of variations of TDY and different regulations for the various types of temporary duty. Let’s take a look at one of those.

What is Permissive TDY?

One variation of TDY is permissive TDY. “What is permissive TDY?” might be a question you have to ask your spouse when it’s time to move. That’s because one of the most common times permissive TDY is used is when a military member receives orders to a new duty station.

Permissive TDY allows a service member to take leave without being charged for it. The difference between permissive TDY and regular TDY is that the military doesn’t cover any expenses.

A military member can request permissive TDY anytime after they’ve received their new orders. The squadron commander is usually the one responsible for approving or denying the permissive TDY request.

Since no expenses are covered with permissive TDY, many use it when they travel from their old base to their new base. Others, though, might use it for house hunting before leaving the duty station and dragging their whole family across the country with nowhere to live.

There are a couple of other instances where permissive TDY might be used:

  • Participating in professional development activities
  • Terminal leave for job or house hunting
  • What is a TDY in the Military?

A TDY in the military is when a service member receives a temporary duty assignment as we discussed above. They get specific military orders to a specified location for a specified job.

Don’t confuse TDY orders with deployments. They may seem the same since the service member is most likely away from their home base but there are some differences.

Take a look at some of those differences:

  • Deployments are put on for a specific purpose.
  • Deployments generally involve training or combat operations.
  • TDY is not generally combat related.
  • Deployment and TDY orders each have their own rules and regulations.
  • Deployments usually affect a group of people. TDY orders are normally individual.

So, next time you ask yourself, “What is a TDY in the military?” think temporary, individual, and a specific job.

What Does TDY Stand for?

As we’ve seen, TDY stands for temporary duty. There’s no clear indication where the “y” in the acronym comes from, perhaps from the word “duty.”

You’ll hear some people refer to it as “temporary duty assignment” but according to the DOD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, TDY simply stands for temporary duty.

What is TDY in Army?

TDY in the Army is a temporary assignment for a soldier away from their normal duty station. This could be for a couple of days, a couple of weeks, or months. Here are some examples of TDY orders in the Army:

  • Specialized training away from a soldier’s normal duty station.
  • Regularly scheduled exercises away from the normal duty station.
  • Training schools away from the normal station when promoted in rank or a change in jobs.

The above examples are not the only instances where TDY orders are used but they are the most common. The Army may also choose to send a soldier on TDY orders to a different base when that soldier can benefit that base or unit in some way.

Remember, when a soldier is on TDY orders, they are entitled to pay for travel, lodging, meals, and other expenses.

What is TDY in Military Terms?

Life would be much easier if acronyms were universal across all branches of the military but unfortunately, that’s not the case. The acronym TDY is used in the Army, Air Force, and Coast Guard but it’s a different acronym for the Navy and Marines.

So, what is TDY in military terms? The same definition of TDY generally holds true across the branches whether the acronym is the same or not. It’s still a temporary duty assignment.

The Navy and Marines refer to these temporary assignments as “temporary additional duty” orders or TAD. These orders are still considered duty at a location away from the service member’s permanent duty station and the service member is still entitled to the same financial benefits.

What is TDY in the Air Force?

If you’re in the Air Force, TDY is the same general idea as if you were in the Army. The locations may be different but it’s still temporary duty orders sending you somewhere other than your permanent duty station for some period of time.

The following are the reasons the Air Force outlines for TDY orders:

  • Requirements for the service member’s next permanent change of station (PCS) assignment
  • Administrative reasons
  • Manning assistance

The Air Force limits the lengths of TDYs for Airmen attending training courses to less than 20 weeks. If a course or combination of courses in the same location is longer than 20 weeks, it’s considered a PCS.

Just as in the Army, service members in the Air Force are reimbursed for travel, lodging, meals, and many other expenses.

Pay While on TDY

The million-dollar question for many military families when they receive any type of new orders is “How do these orders affect our pay?”

The good news is, in most cases, there’s no negative effect on your pay and you might even see a positive effect if the service member doesn’t use all of their per diem. Since the orders are temporary, that means there is no change to a service member’s housing allowance or any other pay related to location.

What’s Covered With TDY Orders?

Issuing TDY orders allows the military to compensate the service member for various expenses related to the trip. As we’ve mentioned, lodging and travel are covered when a service member receives TDY orders (unless it’s permissive TDY) but these reservations must be financially reasonable.

The military uses the phrase “travel responsibly” meaning the service member should use the same thought with the money they spend while TDY as a prudent person would if they were paying.

For example, travel and lodging reservations must be made through the Department of Defense or DoD travel system. Lodging through the system is normally on base. If lodging on base isn’t available, a DoD preferred hotel or lodging is the next best option.

That means there are no all-inclusive resorts or first class seats while on TDY orders unless you’re paying for them yourself.

The per diem rate a service member receives depends on the location of their TDY orders. Per diem is a daily rate designed to cover meals and can vary depending on whether they stay on or off base. If they’re staying on base and a galley option is available, the service member will likely receive partial per diem.

Either way, it’s possible the service member can come home with some extra money if they watch how they spend it while on TDY.

Now that you know what a TDY is, you can chime in the next time it comes up in conversation and not feel too lost.

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