Paramilitary: July 26, 2004


The recent call up of 5,600 American army IRR (Individual Ready Reserve) soldiers brought to light a rather curious use for the IRR. While most of the people in the IRR are those who are just finishing their eight years of mandatory service, there are thousands of National Guard and army reserve personnel there, mainly because theres no where else to put them, or because no one can find these people in the first place. Reservists also incur the eight year obligation when they sign up. Most reservists sign on for six years of active reserve (attending monthly training sessions, and the two weeks of Summer exercises), followed by two years in the IRR. Active duty troops spend four years in uniform full time, followed by four years in the IRR. But heres the angle that commanders in reserve and National Guard units have learned to exploit. Since IRR members are not paid, and its common for members of reserve units to, well, just disappear, its a lot easier to simply transfer the missing trooper to the IRR, than to go through all the paperwork, hassle, and futility of going after them for abandoning their reserve obligation. At the same time, there are reservists who are legitimately transferred to the IRR. This commonly happens when a reserve unit is disbanded, and there are no nearby (within reasonable distance) reserve units to take the now orphaned reservists. Some of the more dedicated reservists will up and move to a new town that has a reserve unit they can join, but most often, the orphaned reservists will transfer to the IRR. Another (well known) problem with the IRR is that its members do not keep the army informed of their whereabouts. Legally, the IRR members are supposed to, but the army has rarely prosecuted anyone over this. So few IRR members bother to notify the army when there is an address change. As a result, a third, or more, of IRR members are not at the address the army has for them. Alas, the IRR members are not mobilized often enough to justify a reform of this system (and spending the time and money needed to keep track of everyone.) If more IRR members are called up over the next few years, to support the war on terror, that might change. You might say that the IRR was designed for the situation the army now finds itself in. Now, after half a century, the IRR finally has a chance to do what it was designed for. 


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