IRR call-ups start Tuesday; most will be sent overseas

By LISA BURGESS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 1, 2004

ARLINGTON, Va. — The Army will begin involuntary mobilizations of the Individual Ready Reserve on Tuesday, tapping 5,600 individuals to fill slots in units bound for Iraq or Afghanistan, Army officials said Wednesday.

The Army's Individual Ready Reserve, or IRR, is a pool of more than 111,000 soldiers who have left active duty or active reserve service, but still have time left on their obligation.

Up to 5,600 IRR soldiers from all over the United States will get a warning mailgram starting next week, followed within days by formal activation orders that give the individual 30 days to report to his or her mobilization station, Robert Smiley told Pentagon reporters Wednesday.

Smiley, who is principal assistant for training, readiness and mobilization in the Army's Office of Manpower and Reserve Affairs, said the Army is working to fill 4,402 spaces in units bound for the third rotation to Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom 3) and the sixth rotation to Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom 6), both of which are due to start later this summer.

The IRR soldiers will spend about 30 days at a basic training site, where their basic soldiering skills will undergo evaluation and training will be supplied to fill shortfalls, Smiley said.

From there, the soldiers will be sent to their new units for unit training before the deployment begins.

A few IRR soldiers will remain in the United States, Smiley said, but most will go to Iraq or Afghanistan.

The IRR soldiers, like other soldiers, will not be required to spend more than one year in Iraq or Afghanistan once deployed, although the Army cannot guarantee that the "12-month boots on the ground" policy will not be modified to meet mission requirements, as has happened with many units serving in OIF 2.

The tapped soldiers principally include "transporters, drivers, mechanics, combat engineers, logisticians and supply folks," according to Raymond Robinson Jr., chief of operations for the Army's Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel.

None of the soldiers called up will have been deployed to either Iraq or Afghanistan within the previous 12 months - anyone whose record reflects such a deployment is exempt, according to Army Col. Debra Cook, commander of the Army's Human Resources Command in St. Louis.

However, Army officials could not guarantee that none of the augmentees have served in either theater post-Sept. 11, 2001, although Army officials tried to avoid calling such members again, said Cook, who spoke during the Pentagon news conference.

"The records [of the IRR soldiers considered for the call-up] have been reviewed on a case-by-case basis," Cook said.

This summer's IRR mobilization is not a one-time event, the Army officials said - the mobilizations will continue as the Army continues to rotate troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We expect to call some more" not only for OIF4 and OEF7, but also some call-ups in addition to the 5,600 for OIF3, Smiley said.

Pressed on how many additional IRR mobilizations the future might hold, Smiley said, "We simply don't know."

When asked if numbers could be in the thousands, he replied, "Yes."

The IRR mobilizations provided ammunition for politicians like Sen. Carl Levin, ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who have said that the Army is overstretched by its obligations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The mobilization "shows how heavy a stress the Army is under," Levin, a Democrat from Michigan, said in a Wednesday telephone interview organized by Sen. John Kerry's campaign. "The active Army is too small."

"The Army is not too small," Smiley said at the earlier press conference. Calling up the IRR "is good personnel management."

But even military officers who were once supporters of President Bush expressed concern about the call-up.

Gen. Tony McPeak, former Air Force chief of staff under the first Bush administration and supporter of President George Bush in the 2000 elections, joined Levin in the Wednesday Kerry campaign phone session to say that the current administration's actions in Iraq and Afghanistan have torpedoed his faith in the Republican Party.

"We all support the troops," McPeak, who is now acting as a defense advisor to Kerry, said. "What we're worried about is that the troops are paying the price for arrogance and mismanagement …. and mistakes made at the civilian level."

Q and A on the IRR ...

How many people will be called?


How many slots is the Army trying to fill?


Why the extra mobilizations?

For each slot, the Army needs to call up 1.3 soldiers, because some will not make the cut for medical or personal reasons.

When will they will be notified?

They will be alerted beginning July 6; formal orders will follow within days.

When will they report?

Thirty days after receiving formal activation orders.

How long can they be mobilized?

Up to 24 months, although orders will be for 18 months.

Where will they go?

Most will go to Iraq or Afghanistan; a few will remain in the United States.

When do their salaries and benefits start?

The day they report to their mobilization station.

How many IRR soldiers have already been mobilized?

541; of those, 324 are on active duty, and 217 are awaiting training.

Source: U.S. Army