Although the U.S. Marine Corps is making its
recruiting numbers, it still has shortages in some key skill areas. This has
been a growing problem, as too many people the marines need most, do not
re-enlist. So the U.S. Marines are using the IRR (Individual Ready Reserve) to
obtain key support positions for units headed to a combat zone. Themarines recently sent out activation orders
to 870 members of the IRR, to fill support jobs in intelligence, maintenance,
communications and various other skills. These marines would return to active
service later this year. They will be activated for twelve months (seven months
overseas, with the rest of the time for training).
Most people in the IRR are there for
four years, to finish out the eight year obligation incurred when they enlisted
(usually for four years of active duty.) The IRR has existed for nearly half a
century, and had never really been used until this century. The current
situation appears to be exactly what the IRR was designed for, and the army and
marines are using it a lot. In theory, the army and marines could make everyone
who enlisted, serve eight years (instead of the usual 3-6 years.) This is
unlikely, as there are limits on how many reservists the president can call up
without a formal declaration of war. Moreover, not all of the 15-20 thousand
marines discharged each year have skills that are needed to fill emergency
needs. One thing is for certain, troops, including those recently discharged,
are now much more aware of what the IRR is.
Many of those who get an IRR call-up
notice are not able to go. They have health or other personal situations that
make them unable to deploy. Last year, 1,800 recently discharged marines
received IRR call up notices. But only about 47 percent actually went. This is
not just a problem with reservists. The army recently called 1,105 former
recruiters back to recruiting duty. This was part of an effort to make sure the
army stays on track to makes its recruiting numbers for the fiscal year (which
ends at the end of September). Only about half of those recruiters made it,
even though all are still on active duty. The rest were unavailable for a
number of reasons. A few females were pregnant (of the high risk variety), most
of the recalled NCOs were either in higher priority jobs (senior NCO in a unit
headed overseas, casualty assistance officer or any number of critical jobs).
Some were on leave, and the army was unwilling to pay for un-reimbursable
vacation expenses. Some were ill, or even hospitalized. Some were in the middle
of critical army training programs, and some were in a combat zone already. The
phrase, "drop everything" can rarely be applied literally, but it was here.
Even so, you are lucky to get half the people technically available. That's the
way it is with the IRR.