By Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg
Special to American Forces Press Service
Sept. 30, 2008 - Though they may serve only two to four years on active duty, soldiers who enlist in the Army takes on an eight-year commitment. When they leave active duty, they can serve the remainder of their obligation in the National Guard or Army Reserve, but they also can fulfill the commitment in the Individual Ready Reserve. IRR members must meet minimal annual requirements -- such as keeping personal contact information current, attending musters, updating readiness screening questionnaires and responding to official correspondence – and are subject to being mobilized, or called back to the Army.
Col. Wanda Good, commander of the St. Louis branch of the U.S. Army Human Resources Command, discussed the process for mobilizing soldiers under the IRR program during a teleconference with bloggers and online journalists yesterday.
"Their knowledge and skill make them an invaluable asset to our nation, and we're tremendously proud of our IRR soldiers and their contribution to the total Army," she said.
"IRR soldiers have been making a contribution for a long time," the colonel said. "Beginning with the Berlin crisis in 1961, we had 38,827 IRR soldiers mobilized by the Army, and this was the largest mobilization of the IRR to date."
Good added that in the late 1960s during the Vietnam era, 1,692 IRR soldiers were called up into 42 mobilized reserve units. During the Gulf War in the ealy 1990s, 20,277 IRR soldiers were mobilized, and 14,470 of them were deployed.
"This is not the first time we've tapped the expertise of the IRR soldiers," Good noted.
Good said a common myth surrounding the IRR today is the impression that a massive mobilization is under way.
"There are 65,000 IRR soldiers. Since 9/11, seven years ago, we've published about 20,000 mobilization orders. That's about 31 percent of the IRR. Slightly less than 5,000 are mobilized today, and that's about 7 percent of the current IRR population," she said.
Another myth, Good said, is the belief that vast numbers of IRR soldiers are failing to report to mobilization stations as ordered.
"We've had 779 cases of IRR soldiers failing to report as ordered to their mobilization stations," she said. "We've discharged 354 of them for failure to report, and we have 425 cases still under investigation. So, if you calculate those numbers, that's 779 out of 20,000, soldiers. That's only 4 percent."
Good said another myth centers around the belief that the Army doesn't take care of IRR soldiers after they return from Iraq or Afghanistan.
"Actually, the Army and the [Veterans Affairs Department] have a wide variety of programs in place to support all soldiers," she said. "That is another reason why we have musters on an annual basis. We want to call back our soldiers and make sure they are filling out their post-deployment health reassessments."
The assessments are important, the colonel said. "Last year ... we found three soldiers who were suicidal, one of whom got directly into the VA and [received] help immediately," she noted. "We do try very hard to take care of our soldiers, and the musters [are] the best way so far that we can actually touch these soldiers and give them the medical assistance they need."
Since the Sept. 11 terror attacks, 2,218 IRR soldiers have volunteered to return to active duty, Good said. Of the more than 2,200 that have returned to active duty, 384 of them have served in Iraq, and 122 of them have served in Afghanistan.
(Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg is assigned to the New Media Directorate of the Defense Media Activity.)