General Addresses Misconceptions About Army Individual Ready Reserve
By Kristen Noel
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 12, 2008 News reports suggesting that injured former soldiers are being called back to active duty and confusion over what the Individual Ready Reserve is have resulted in misconceptions, a senior Army personnel officer said May 9.
Many people seem unaware of the purpose of the Army Individual Ready Reserve and its obligations, Maj. Gen. Sean Byrne, commander of U.S. Army Human Resources Command, said during a teleconference with online journalists and “bloggers” March 9.
“I see three main fallacies … associated with IRR soldiers,” Byrne said. First, many do not fully understand the delay or exemption program available to soldiers who receive mobilization orders, he said. Secondly, he said, people seem to believe any soldier in possession of a DD214 form -- the official separation document -- is completely discharged with no further obligation.
Every individual who assumes active duty in the Army automatically incurs an eight-year mandatory service obligation and is made aware of that obligation, Byrne said. But seemingly widespread unawareness of this obligation accounts for the third misconception, he said.
“Soldiers typically serve two to four years on active duty,” he explained, “and when they leave active duty, they’re transferred into the reserve components to fulfill the remainder of their obligation.”
The IRR is one of several ways soldiers may fulfill their remaining years of service, Byrne said, with the other options including remaining on active duty, or serving in uniform with the National Guard or Reserve.
While the Guard and Reserve often require weekend training and periodic duty assignments, the IRR only obligates soldiers to meet minimal annual requirements, such as keeping personal contact information current, attending musters, updating readiness screening questionnaires, and responding to official correspondence, Byrne said.
“The IRR is a group of trained, experienced military professionals who stand ready to augment Army units,” he explained. “We mobilized and deployed soldiers of the IRR for Operation Desert Storm, and since 9/11, we’ve been mobilizing and deploying them to support the global war on terror.
“Today, we have almost 72,000 soldiers in the IRR, with approximately 6,500 of them on active duty,” he added.
The Army expects IRR soldiers will serve in duty positions when called upon, Byrne said. But, he said there is a formal process for requesting a delay or exemption, if an injury, illness, or extenuating circumstance prevents the soldier’s return to active duty.
Byrne said the IRR’s mobilization orders include a toll-free phone number for soldiers to call to request a delay or exemption from returning to active duty.
“We tell them formally, as we give them mobilization orders, … what they need to do if they need a delay [or] exemption,” he said. About half of requests for delays or exemptions are approved, he added.
He explained that the requests are reviewed on a case-by-case basis and aren’t subjected to any standard determining factors.
“We are really very careful as we review anybody’s request for an exemption, a delay, any of those, to make sure that we’re doing the right thing for the individual and the institution,” he said.
If a case has not been adjudicated before a soldier’s scheduled report date, Byrne explained, he or she will be granted an administrative delay from returning to active duty.
“Administrative delays are not unusual special favors,” he said. “They’re granted in accordance with standard operating procedures that exist to ensure a soldier’s situation is carefully and completely considered.”
The Army has “a pretty deliberate process” by which IRR soldiers who are called back can ask for a delay or an exemption should they feel they’re not qualified to serve on active duty, Byrne said.
“One of the worst things that we can do is try to bring somebody on active duty who’s got problems that are insurmountable,” he added, “that are basically going to make it very hard or difficult for them to focus on their active-duty time.”
(Kristen Noel works for the New Media branch of the American Forces Information Service.)