The Army said Thursday it has stopped the involuntary call-up of officers in a certain reserve status, following complaints by some officers mobilized after being out of uniform for years.
The policy change affects an estimated 15,000 officers in the Individual Ready Reserve, a segment of the reserve that consists mainly of soldiers who have left active duty but still have time remaining on their eight-year military obligation.
The 15,000 have completed their eight-year obligation but chose to stay in the Individual Ready Reserve. The IRR differs from other reserve categories such as the National Guard by not requiring regular training.
Under a new policy adopted Nov. 4, IRR officers can avoid being called to active duty, but only if they resign their commission. Previously, an officer could not resign once ordered to active duty.
By staying in the IRR beyond the required eight-year obligation, officers remain eligible for promotions and enjoy some military benefits. They generally are not paid and are subject to recall to active duty.
The Army began notifying several thousand IRR soldiers in the summer of 2004 that they were being mobilized for possible deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan. But a large number of them failed to report for duty or requested a delay. Some complained that they never expected to be forced back into uniform; many were unfit.
The Army has been unable to contact some.
Of the 511 IRR members who had not reported for duty as of early October, more then 80 percent had ignored the Army’s notification or could not be found, according to Army records. About 70 of the 511 had been contacted, but refused to comply with their mobilization order. The Army has yet to decide how to deal with those reservists.
The last time members of the IRR were called to active duty was 1990, when nearly 20,000 were mobilized but not deployed.
Iraq, Afghanistan required more reserves
In recent years, most had come to assume they would never be called up. But the strains of simultaneous conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have forced the Army to mobilize about 6,500 IRR members.
As of October, the last month for which the Army has published figures, only 3,346 had reported for duty.
Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, an Army spokesman, said IRR officers who are past their eight-year military obligation and who have been selected for potential recall to active duty will be discharged unless they elect to remain in the IRR. They also could choose to request a delay in their mobilization or request a waiver.
The policy does not affect enlisted soldiers in the IRR, many of whom also have balked at returning to service.
Hilferty said those IRR officers who already have been mobilized and are training in the United States for a deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan will be given the choice of resigning or continuing in their active-duty assignment.
Entitled to honorable discharge
The choices are spelled out on an Army form being provided to affected IRR officers. It says those who choose to resign their commission are entitled to an honorable discharge. Those who elect to remain in the IRR will understand that they “remain a mobilization asset” and are willing to serve on active duty.
Those IRR officers who already are in Iraq or Afghanistan will not be allowed to resign. Rather, they will be required to complete their tour of duty, Hilferty said.
In a recent interview with a group of reporters, Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey said, without mentioning any changes in IRR mobilization policy, that it was “profoundly irritating to me” to see how difficult it has been for the Army to contact IRR members. He said the Army failed to keep adequate IRR records.