Airmen will now have three chances each year to apply for an up-to-three-year sabbatical from the Air Force.

The Air Force Personnel Center announced Friday that the number of application windows for the Career Intermission Program is permanently expanding from one to three.

The application windows will now open from April 1 to May 13, Aug. 1 to Sept. 12, and Dec. 1 to Jan. 12 each year. But this year, while putting the new schedule in place, the Air Force will hold its second sign-up period from Sept. 22 to Oct. 31.

Airmen with humanitarian needs now can apply for the program out of cycle, AFPC said. Dual-military married airmen have an opportunity to take a break in those rare circumstances when a join spouse assignment can’t be supported. AFPC will expedite those airmen’s applications, if they want it.

The Career Intermission Program, which was launched in 2014, is intended to give active duty airmen, as well as career-status Guard and reserve airmen, time to go back to school, start a family, care for loved ones, or pursue other goals. So far, 108 airmen have been selected to take part in the program.

One airman, C-21 pilot Capt. Shannon Williams, gave birth to her first daughter in February 2015 and entered the intermission program to care for her. Williams told Air Force Times that the time off to start her family makes it more likely she will stay in the Air Force for her full 20 years.

The Air Force enacted this program to give valued airmen more flexibility to pursue their personal life goals, and not have to choose whether to take care of personal needs or leave the service for good.

“The Career Intermission Program affords an avenue to meet the changing needs of today‘s service members,” said Adriana Bazan, military personnel specialist at the Air Force Personnel Center. “This work-life flexibility initiative will enable the Air Force to retain talent, which reduces cost and adverse impacts on the mission.”

Airmen who are chosen for the program can take one to three years off, during which they are put on Individual Ready Reserve status. Airmen on sabbatical continue to receive their usual medical and dental coverage, as well as exchange and commissary benefits. They also receive a stipend of one-fifteenth of their usual monthly basic pay, and can carry forward up to 60 days of leave.

The Air Force pays to move an airman from his or her duty station to any location in the U.S., and then moves the airman to his or her follow-on base at the end of the program. The airmen are required to check in with the CIP program manager once a month, maintain their health, fitness and other standards while on break, and be ready to fully resume their duties.

After they return to the same component they left, airmen must fulfill a requirement to remain on active duty status for twice as long as they spent on break. That means an airman who takes the full three years off will have to serve another six years.

Time spent in this program does not count toward their retirement eligibility, total years of service, years of aviation service, or years of service for determining basic pay. Participants are not eligible for promotion consideration during their break.

The Air Force considers its manning and mission requirements when evaluating whether or not to accept applicants for this program, Bazan said. Until they’re approved, applicants should not take any employment or relocation steps based on the assumption that they will be accepted.