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Battalion's IRRs Readily Answer Call to Duty

By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service

CAMP ATTERBURY, Dec. 14, 2004 – Like thousands of former active duty soldiers, many soldiers now serving with the 844th Engineer Battalion (Combat Heavy) got letters and telegrams ordering them back to service.

They were among more than 4,000 members of the Individual Ready Reserve, enlisted soldiers and officers who had service obligations remaining after leaving the active Army or drilling Reserve, who have been called back since last summer. The Army has more than 100,000 such soldiers on its rolls.

The news came as a shock to many. Most of the soldiers here said they never thought twice about the provision on their discharge contract that stated they could be called back to duty in the event of a national crisis.

That crisis struck on Sept. 11, 2001, when the country went to war against terrorism. As one IRR soldier put it: "The country needed my support."

Though media reports have focused on a few IRR soldiers who shunned their orders, deciding not to report, the great majority have answered their country's call, like those here and at of the other three Guard and Reserve mobilization stations in the Army.

Here, the 844th is on standby, awaiting orders that will send them any day now to Iraq. And among the battalion's 632-member force are as many as 80 IRR soldiers who left their jobs and their families to answer the call of duty.

Army Capt. Dominic Santoleri, 34, knew that after serving eight years in the Army he had not fulfilled the military agreement that paid his full college tuition. He knew that when he resigned his commission, his name was added to the eligible list of IRR soldiers.

Santoleri was enjoying his career as a tax examiner with the Internal Revenue Service in Cincinnati, a job he held the past four years, when he got a letter in the mail.

"I nearly threw it away, thinking it was just another credit card application," he said. "And I certainly didn't need any more of them."

But instead, the letter was notice from the Army saying it needed his services once again.

He had just six weeks to get his personal affairs in order and report for duty at Camp Atterbury. His employer was supportive of the military's request, holding a farewell dinner on his last day at work. Even the IRS area director flew in from Washington, D.C., to say goodbye, he said.

"I can't speak for anyone else, but when I was 19 years old I made a commitment. I'm the kind of guy that does what he's supposed to do," Santoleri said. "I knew when I took that money for college what was to be expected of me. Just because this mission is inconvenient or unpleasant doesn't mean you can back out of it."

Maj. Anne Dutrey, a senior city engineer in California, has already deployed to Iraq as part of the 844th advance party. Dutrey had been out of the Army for more than seven years, leaving in February 1997 under the military's voluntary separation incentive program. A condition of the program required soldiers leaving the military to be available for IRR recall.

"I never thought I would be called up," said Dutrey, who is married with two children, adding that her initial reaction was of both shock and surprise. "I had to read it over twice."

The major said she got her letter in August and had to report to Fort Sill, Okla., for mobilization training in September. She later went to Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., before joining her new unit, the 844th.

Dutrey, who now serves as the battalion's personnel officer, said she has run across the names of a few soldiers who either didn't report to duty or went AWOL absent without leave. "It never occurred to me not to show up when I got my orders," she said.

"The Army had its rights, and I had a obligation to report, and I reported," Dutrey noted. "A lot of people got called up and weren't thrilled with it, but if you made the deal, then you need to live with it. And those people who failed to report or tried to maneuver their way out of it ought to be ashamed of themselves."

Capt. Lyndon Searles of New York was out of the Army for five years. He left his job as business manager for two medical practices to join the 844th advance party in Iraq as the unit's intelligence officer. Charles said the thought of going to war is "something that everyone knows about when they join the Army."

"So at some point in your career," he said, "you have to consider that (going to war) is something that you'll have to do."

That is exactly what the majority of recalled IRR soldiers who read their letters and followed Army instructions will be doing soon. And luckily for some of those here, it will be with the 844th. "Nobody wants to go to war," Dutrey said, "but if I have to go, this is the group to go with."

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