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Friday, March 30, 2007

Forced Individual Ready Reserve Call-ups a Special Stress for Troops

Marine Corps News reports on 1,800 Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) Marines who are receiving notice this week of their forced return to active duty (second story in the clip below). Required to check in between April 10-30, it is the largest such call-up of IRR troops since Operation Iraqi Freedom began.

Such orders add a unique stress to the life of a veteran whose contract was thought to have been fulfilled. And they may increase the likelihood of having to deal with PTSD down the road.

Click on 'Article Link' below tags for more...

From the Marine Corps Times:

Most of the 1,800 Individual Ready Reservists the Corps involuntarily recalled this week will be sent to Iraq to fill specialty jobs the service is having trouble filling, according to a mobilization official. Letters were mailed Monday to those IRR Marines, notifying them of an April muster in Kansas City, Lt. Col. Jeff Riehl, a mobilization officer with Marine Corps Manpower and Reserve Affairs, said Monday at a press briefing.

Those accepted for active duty will be issued orders to report for an Iraq deployment with I Marine Expeditionary Force in October, he said. “Unit deployment dates will be in early 2008,” he said.

The Corps is authorized to involuntarily activate 2,500 IRR leathernecks at one time. Mobilization officials called up 150 IRR Marines in December, of which only 69 were fit for active duty. This second round of involuntary call-ups will target 1,800, with the aim of filling about 1,200 active-duty slots.

Specifically, the Corps wants 361 aviation mechanics, 225 for logistics support, 223 for combat arms, 178 for motor transport, 97 for communication, 95 for intelligence and 21 for military police, Riehl said. This week’s call-up is heavy on junior leathernecks and midgrade officers, including more than 1,000 sergeants and more than 100 captains, Riehl said.

Marines are far from the only ones forced back into service:

Hundreds of thousands of National Guard and Reserve members previously mobilized for tours in Iraq and Afghanistan are exposed anew to involuntary call-up under a policy change unveiled with President Bush's plan to "surge" forces into Baghdad. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he has rescinded a rule, set in 2002, that barred involuntary mobilization of reserve personnel beyond a "cumulative" 24-month ceiling for a wartime emergency.

But Gates also softened the effect of that decision by capping future involuntary mobilizations at 12 months apiece, including training time. This replaces what has been routine 16-to-24-month mobilizations for most Guard or Reserve members including a year "boots on the ground" in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The now shelved 24-month "cumulative" rule had been in effect five years, long enough that some Guard and Reserve members, and their families, might have believed it protected against a second call-up. But Brig. Gen. James W. Nuttall, deputy director of the Army National Guard, said a majority of Guard soldiers will not be surprised by the policy change, given the nature of the wars they've experienced firsthand.

"The reality is that most soldiers, having served once in theater, knew that this was going to be a long war and that at some point we were going to have to come back to them," Nuttall told Military Update.

A closer look at IRR:

The Individual Ready Reserve (abbreviated "IRR" and sometimes referred to as the Inactive Ready Reserve) is a category of reserve component of the United States military, composed of former active duty or reserve military personnel who are no longer serving but still have time remaining on their initial eight-year military service obligation, or their subsequent reserve obligation. As of 2004, the IRR includes approximately 118,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines.

On 29 July, 2004, 5,600 members of the IRR, mainly with specialties as military police or civil affairs officers, were called back to active duty to support U.S. forces in Iraq. This activation was the first time that the IRR had been called upon since the 1991 Gulf War, when approximately 20,000 IRR troops were called up in support of Operation Desert Storm.

As of April 2005:
*Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has authorized the Army to mobilize up to 6,500 Individual Ready Reservists at any one time;
*3,900 IRR members with critical specialties have been called to active duty;
*About half of those called have reported for duty;
*About 550 of those called have failed to report for duty, some claiming exemptions, others ignoring their orders.

Normal obligations are for four years of active duty and four years on inactive duty.

Gary Solis, retired lieutenant colonel for the Marine Corps, spoke of the unique stressors of such orders on NPR's Talk of the Nation.

The long-lasting stressors of such forced call-ups is documented in a study conducted by Walter Reed Army of Institute of Research. While the first Gulf War lasted only 100 days, they found that IRR troops were significantly impacted long after the war was over due to the special characteristics and experience of this group:

Over 350,000 US soldiers were in the Persian Gulf Region during Operation Desert Shield and Storm (ODS/S). This deployment required rapid short-notice deployment of Active Army Units and Army Reserve and National Guard Unit Soldiers. The Individual Ready Reserve soldier was the focus of the present study. Given the fact that the reserve soldiers differ from active duty soldiers on a number of dimensions, the unique deployment and activation experiences of IRR soldiers offers a number of valuable lessons regarding the effects of stressors, stress buffers, mediators, and family and unit support. Of the findings, two were most significant: (1) Because Individual Ready Reservists were not a part of any particular unit, they and their families felt isolated in many respects and (2) soldiers and their families were still experiencing impact from their deployments several years after Operation Desert Shield and Storm.

While these stressors were exhibited in a war of such a short duration, today's troops have the additional strain of long-term plans being placed on hold as our wars drag on. Educational goals have to be halted; business entrepreneurs have to put dreams on hold, or those already running businesses may suffer financially or even go under with these types of IRR recalls. This is a unique financial burden which does not have the same impact on active forces.

One Marine's story:

On Tuesday, it will have been four years since the United States invaded Iraq, and Marine Lance Cpl. Nicholas Kirsch has been deployed there three times. The government now hopes he'll sign on for what could turn into an almost-unheard-of fourth tour in Iraq. "I don't think I'm going to go," Kirsch said. "I'm going to school now."

Kirsch, 23, who is single and a student at Utah Valley State College, is taking classes in art and writing. But he recently received a letter from Marine Lt. Gen. James T. Conway, encouraging him to re-enlist.

Kirsch finished his four-year enlistment last year. But for another four years, he's considered a member of the Marine version of Individual Ready Reserve, a component of the military that the government can use to recall service members back into active duty. Even if he doesn't re-enlist, he could end up going anyway — involuntarily.

During his first two deployments to Baghdad for the 2003 invasion and then Fallujah near the end of 2004, Kirsch shot his weapon at Iraqis who were trying to kill him. To this day, he is still sensitive to loud noises and has trouble being in crowds, instinctively checking who is around him as he walks the halls of UVSC. "I don't want to go to Iraq again," he said in an interview.

When the Marine who fought in the bloody retaking of Fallujah in 2004 received the letter, he read it over carefully a number of times. It attempted to appeal to his loyalty to mission and man, saying, "You are elite among the nation's warriors. The job you started is not yet finished." It is not known if Kirsch is among the 1,800 who have received their orders back to active duty.

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