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May 18, 2004

But The College Money Will Be Waiting

pk wrote to point out the Daily Kos noting a TAPPED bit :

A friend of mine who is currently an inactive Army reservist forwarded me some memos he received regarding future mobilizations -- memos that indicate that we are not far from some kind of conscription in the next few years. According to my friend, recruiters are telling inactive reservists that they're going to be called up one way or another eventually, so they might as well sign up now and get into non-Iraq-deploying units while they still can. There's also a 'warning order' -- i.e., a heads-up -- from the Army's personnel command that talks about the involuntary transfer of inactive reservists to the active reserves, and thus into units that are on deck for the next few Iraq rotations.

Kos clarifies what the inactive ready reserve (IRR) is all about:

[...] every enlistment was for eight years. The only variable was how many years you were active duty. In 1989, when I enlisted, the options were two, three and four years. I believe the two-year enlistment option has since been eliminated.

In any case, you would finish off your active duty service, and would be 'inactive' for the remainder of that eight year term.

During that inactive time, you don't report to a unit or anything. You just live the civilian life and wait for your time to be up so you don't have to worry about the very real possibility that the military will call you back in if it needs you. You also get brochures from various reserve components trying to remind you of how much fun you had when you were in the army and offering you more opportunities for more fun one weekend a month, two weeks a year.

If something I spotted last year is true, there might be a crop of soldiers who enlisted for new, super-short 19 month enlistments. The shorter enlistments, as I recall, typically went to either low-skill specialties with short training periods or low-skill combat arms specialties. I knew at least one generator mechanic who was in on a two year enlistment. It's the Army's way of making sure it has a bumper crop of soldierized personnel waiting in the wings in the medium term. They'll know how to act like soldiers, they'll have a sense of how an active duty unit works, and they'll be on tap for a good five or six years without costing the military the expense of maintaining them as active duty soldiers.

My own IRR time ended four years after I left active duty. I signed out of Ft. Bragg in December of 1997, my actual active duty period ended after a few months of terminal leave in January of 1998. My IRR obligation ended in late 2001 or early 2002 (depending on how a few variables were taken into account... fortunately it ended up not mattering).

That last day of my obligation was one of quiet reflection and some relief: I spent four years being as good a soldier as I could manage. I even volunteered for things the army's not allowed to order people to do. I spent several years feeling relatively secure after I got out, then watched the invasion of Afghanistan and went through a bout of wondering what I'd do if they called me back in with just months to go before I could quit worrying about it.

At the time, having spent some GI Bill money and knowing full well what it meant when I took the oath of enlistment, I was pretty sure I'd go where ordered and do what I was told to do. I'd signed the dotted line, and an IRR call-up means the next step is drafting boys who didn't have a chance to make the choice I did. Regardless of how much my feelings about going to war had changed in the interim between driving out the front gate at Fort Bragg and watching the country go to war in Afghanistan, the thought of effectively turning to an 18-year-old kid and saying "You can go in my place" was repulsive.

That's a lousy hand to deal yourself. I hope this isn't really happening.

Posted by mph at May 18, 2004 04:21 PM