The U.S. Army decided to call, to active service, 5,600 of the 111,000 soldiers in the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR). The IRR has existed for decades, and rarely used. The IRR consists of soldiers who have served less than eight years on active duty. All volunteers agree to an initial obligation of eight years of service. Usually, that means three or four years on active duty, and then five or four years in the IRR. New recruits are told, and, later, older NCOs will remind them, that the IRR is real, and if theres a war, theres a good chance they could be called back if their IRR service had not expired. That means that soldiers who enlisted in early 1998, for four years, would have gotten out in early 2002, but have been eligible for recall from the IRR until early 2006. The IRR members called up will have 30 days to report, and will receive at least 30 days of training once they are back in uniform.
The IRR callup spotlights the problem that wars have become less manpower intensive over the last sixty years. World War II saw 16.1 million Americans serving (11.6 percent of the population.) Six million of those troops were volunteers, the rest were drafted (and 6.4 million were drafted, but rejected for physical, mental or other reasons.) During the 1950-53 Korean war, 5.7 million served (27 percent were draftees), while during the Vietnam war (1965-73), 8.7 million served (20 percent were draftees.) You can see where this is going. With the relatively large number of Americans willing to volunteer for military service, and wars requiring fewer troops, theres no need for draftees.
There is a need for well trained, experienced troops. Thats where the IRR comes in. But less than five percent of the IRR troops are being mobilized because there are shortages in only a few job categories (military police, mechanics, truck drivers, combat engineers, supply clerks, carpentry and masonry specialists, food service personnel and cable system installers.) In addition to the IRR, there is also the Retired Reserve, with over 100,000 retired troops who have served at least 20 years and have not reached age sixty yet. No one in the retired reserve is being called up, but many have been encouraged to volunteer, and this has brought forth several thousand applicants. The army is the one service most stretched by manpower demands of Iraq. The navy and air force have no such problems. But even the army generals do not see it as a long term problem, and believe they have sufficient manpower sources available, and do not want to increase the size of the army permanently.