Paramilitary: Far Fewer Reservists in Iraq

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April 4, 2006: The number of American reservists serving in Iraq has fallen sharply. At the end of 2005, about half the troops in Iraq were reservists (including National Guard.) By the end of 2006, only about a quarter of the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan will be reservists. Part of this was predictable, because, by law, the president may only call reservists to active duty for 24 months per national emergency. While thousands of reservists have volunteered for additional active duty, most had had reached their legal limit, and had their fill of overseas action. That brings us to the second reason for the sharp decline in the number of reservists overseas. Many reservists, while proud of their active duty, made it clear to their commanders that they would not be staying in the reserves if they were going to continue spending so much time on active duty. To deal with this problem the Pentagon has set guidelines for how long, and how often, reservists will be called up in the future. In addition, benefits, financial and otherwise, were increased for reservists. Some of these improvements simply addressed long time gripes, like the inability of reservists on active duty to have the military medical system look after their families. So many of these additional benefits were long overdue changes in how active duty reservists should be treated.

The changes have had the desired effect. Reserve units are maintaining their strength, both in terms of veterans staying in, and new recruits joining. Also, the active duty troops got another that the reservists are able to do the job when called to active duty.

 


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