The Associated Press reports that the Army is notifying 5000 Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) soldiers to report to RRC locations for medical screening and administrative tasks. IRR is a category of soldiers that have no remaining active duty or active reserve obligation (paid status) but are awaiting expiration of service – it also is the catch all location for soldiers administratively separated from active reserve units for Physical fitness failure or overweight. IRR soldiers are not putting on uniforms, going to drill, or being administered in any way in the Army as it stands today. Many IRR members are people who were honorably discharged after finishing their active-duty service but have not yet completed the eight-year commitment they made when they joined the Army. Some are former officers who chose not to resign their commission and thus remained on the IRR rolls.
The recall of 5000 IRR soldiers should be viewed as a required repair of the IRR system which has absolutely abandoned and neglected Active and Reserve soldiers assigned to its ranks for the last 5-10 years. The Army Reserve has expended little effort in the recent past to assist IRR soldiers, encourage them to join units, maintain adequate contact or even acknowledge their service. The Army Reserve has admitted an inability to contact many of its IRR members and that comes as no suprise given a former soldiers expected life's events following service. For some IRR soldiers the effort was the Army Reserve sending one letter every year to the last known address – hardly an appreciable effort likely to sustain the IRR resource.
The effort to complete annual visit to a Reserve location was done in the 80s and 90s with some success, but it was abandoned because of cost. Typically IRR soldiers were sent a notice to report to a center for address and administrative screening and paid for one day of duty commensurate with their grade.
In the past – the IRR was really a category that reserve and former Active soldiers were placed when no longer “soldiering” and no efforts were expended to keep in touch or assist that group. In cases – IRR soldiers that were dead, imprisoned, no longer physically capable were being carried in the overall IRR count. The numbers in the IRR pool were reported but to say the least its capabilities were not accurately assessable by looking at the figures.
With the increased need and use of the Army Reserve this long neglected category of soldiers is now receiving some attention… calling them back to determine status and conducting administrative actions with IRR soldiers is a good start. The Army Reserve can do more –
As is normal for this blog – some ideas;
- paid part-time drill status – Reserve units need help and some IRR soldiers may be available for a portion of the training year at a local active reserve unit – allow a local commander to bring IRR soldiers in for as needed part-time paid drills. IRR soldiers can serve as adjunct members of local reserve units and may come to join on a more permanent basis as a result.
- Medical screenings/ follow-ups for former active duty soldiers – offer a follow-up program for former active component soldiers that encompasses a paid IRR medical screening – use VA assistance to the effort.
- send a $ check for online annual or semi-annual registration by IRR soldiers – update administrative information, address, e-mail contact info, phone, etc and pay for the effort a small amount. IRR soldiers unable to travel to RSC sites on dates times could still remain locatable within the system with little effort.
- Enable Reservists to conduct screening at a local Reserve recruiting station instead of at RSC location. (Who wants to travel to the Bronx for a whole day and fight that traffic – 50 miles or not).
- Streamline separation of soldiers that are unsuitable (morale, criminal, health, etc) for further service – do not deposit them into IRR and expend efforts on them in the future…. Local commander makes the call… not the far removed division retention NCO.
These efforts will improve the quality of information on IRR assigned soldiers. Used in whole or part they will reduce the population of the IRR to manageable numbers and improve efficiencies in call ups when necessary. These are not cost free ideas – but remember you get what you pay for.