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ARLINGTON, Va. — The Army is taking more than 12,000 Individual Ready Reserve officers off the rolls and out of the running for activation, unless they actively sign up to retain their commissions and stay available for war duty.

The order is a reversal of a long-standing procedure that keeps Army officers in the IRR automatically unless they resign their commission, according to Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, a spokesman for the Army’s personnel office.

The new rule “equalizes” the way officers and enlisted are treated in the IRR, Hilferty told Stripes.

The IRR is a category of about 118,000 soldiers who have left active duty or active reserve service who still have time left on their obligation to serve, which is a minimum of eight years.

Enlisted personnel who want to stay in the IRR after their obligated time is up “make a conscious decision to re-enlist,” Hilferty said.

Until now, an officer who was not on active duty or active reserve status was automatically placed in the IRR, where he remained until he resigned his commission, reached mandatory retirement age, or died.

But on July 16, David Chu, undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, issued a directive that mandates the discharge of IRR officers who are beyond their mandatory service obligation, unless they specifically request to remain in the IRR.

Although the directive was signed five months ago, the Army was given time to implement the order, Hilferty said.

When the Army rule came into effect Nov. 5, roughly 12,400 officers in the IRR were past their obligation, which gains them minor points toward retirement benefits, Hilferty said.

Of those, 410 IRR officers had orders to mobilize as part of an IRR call-up authorized by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld last January.

Many of those officers were already at mobilization stations preparing to go to Iraq or Afghanistan, Hilferty said.

After being contacted by Army personnel officers regarding the new rule, 265 of those officers opted to resign their commissions, hang up their uniforms, and return home, Hilferty said.

The Army is now in the process of notifying the other 12,000 officers who are past their service obligations but remain in the IRR regardless, Hilferty said.

Since those officers “don’t have orders, we have more time to get to them” with news of their pending choice, he said.

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