Attrition: Otherwise Engaged

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September 9, 2007: The U.S. Army and Marines continue to use the IRR (Individual Ready Reserve) to obtain key support positions for units headed to a combat zone. Currently the marines are trying to find 1,500 qualified IRR marines for support jobs in intelligence, maintenance, communications and military police. These marines would return to active service early next year.

Most people in the IRR are there for four years, to finish out the eight year obligation incurred when they enlisted (usually for four years of active duty.) The IRR has existed for nearly half a century, and had never really been used until this century. The current situation appears to be exactly what the IRR was designed for, and the army and marines are using it a lot. In theory, the army and marines could make everyone who enlisted, serve eight years (instead of the usual 3-6 years.) This is unlikely, as there are limits on how many reservists the president can call up without a formal declaration of war. Moreover, not all of the 50,000 or so troops discharged each year have skills that the army needs to fill emergency needs. One thing is for certain, troops, including those recently discharged, are now much more aware of what the IRR is.

Many of those who get an IRR call-up notice are not able to go. They have health or other personal situations that make them unable to deploy. Earlier this year, 1,800 recently discharged marines received call up notices. But only about 47 percent are actually going. This is not just a problem with reservists. The army recently called 1,105 former recruiters back to recruiting duty. This was part of an effort to make sure the army stays on track to makes its recruiting numbers for the fiscal year (which ends at the end of the month). Only about half of those recruiters made it. The rest were unavailable for a number of reasons. A few females were pregnant (of the high risk variety), most of the recalled NCOs were either in higher priority jobs (senior NCO in a unit headed overseas, casualty assistance officer or any number of critical jobs). Some were on leave, and the army was unwilling to pay for un-reimbursable vacation expenses. Some were ill, or even hospitalized. Some were in the middle of critical army training programs, and some were in a combat zone already. The phrase, "drop everything" can rarely be applied literally.

 


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