The Fear Draft

May 19th, 2004  |  Published in Uncategorized

A little more digging on the IRR callup matter shows local and military media are paying attention, but the national outfits haven’t picked up on the story yet.

Short version: Army recruiters are taking advantage of a poorly worded memo to cold-call people with time left in their overall obligation and scare them into signing up with the National Guard or Reserves to better their chances of not getting called into the active component and winding up in Iraq. Oregon papers have interviews with two people who say they re-upped into the National Guard against their better judgment because of this deliberate misinformation campaign on the part of members of the Guard’s retention program.

An Iowa TV station did a brief spot, reporting:

According to the Army Human Resources Command out of St. Louis inactive soldiers are not being called up at this time. Spokesperson Julia Collins admits that some Retention Non-Commissioned Officers in the field are spreading the misinformation .

Here’s what’s going on. For the past couple of weeks, the Human Resource Command has been contacting Individual Ready Reserve Soldiers, also known as the IRRS. They are surveying the soldiers to see how much active duty time they have left in their contracts.

At this point Collins says they are only gathering the information. “No decision has been made as to whether or not we would be placing any of these contractually obligated IRRS into Units.”

A “Retention Non-Commissioned Officer” is the sergeant in a unit who tries to get you to stay in the army. When I was in and it was my time to go home, they offered a choice of duty stations and (because I was in a perverse mood when I asked for it) a slot in the special POW training school they ran at Ft. Bragg. Anyhow, they’re pretty much recruiters for people who are already soldiers, and it sounds like some of them are trying to terrify Inactive Ready Reserve soldiers into committing to National Guard or Army Reserve enlistments to dodge a potential callup and deployment to somewhere like, oh, Iraq.

The Army Times, which is not, despite what some people think, a military organ, says the Army’s in the midst of identifying and screening 118,000 IRR soldiers to figure out who’s available for callup. The Times has a different spokesperson who’s being a little less evasive, or at least softening the blow a little less:

None of the 118,000 IRR soldiers has been called up involuntarily so far, said Lt. Col. Burt Masters, a spokesman for the Army?s Human Resources Command in St. Louis. Some IRR members could be called up once the screening is finished, he said.

And the Oregonian followed up this morning:

Thousands of recent U.S. Army veterans nationwide were told to choose by Monday a new assignment in the Army Reserve or National Guard — meaning a potential return to active duty — or the military would decide for them. The Army now says the order was a mistake.

The consequence of the error appears to be a sharp increase in enlistments in Oregon and elsewhere by reservists who feared being assigned a unit without their consent. They face possible deployment to the Middle East.

Also from the Bend Bugle:

“We are proactively contacting unassigned soldiers from the Individual Ready Reserve to show them the benefits of serving with the Oregon Army National Guard,” said Lt. Col. Scott Haynes, commander of Army recruiting and retention for the Oregon National Guard.

“We just want to let these service members know that the Guard is an option and for some of them it is a preferable option,” Haynes said.

So in other words, a memo went out noting that the Army’s conducting a census of soldiers in the Inactive Ready Reserve (that is, soldiers who served some amount of time in the regular, active duty Army or in a Reserve or Guard unit but still owe a period of time under which they’re subject to mobilization). Retention specialists in the Guard and Reserves have seized on the non specificity and sloppy execution of the memo to cold-call people in the IRR and tell them they can either come back in to the Guard (helping the retention people meet their monthly warm body quota) or they can take their chances with getting mobilized, assigned to an active, deployable reserve unit (which means they won’t be able to duck into a safer Guard assignment), and finding their asses in Iraq.

Says one new member of the Guard who got out of the active component just last year:

“The recruiter said I would have less chance for deployment,” he said. “It was my impression that very bad things would happen if I didn’t join.”

Feel free to characterize this as a clusterfuck:

Lt. Gen. James R. Helmly, commander of the Army Reserve, declined comment on how the mistake was made, a spokesman said. How the mistaken order was issued is a mystery, said Steve Stromvall, the civilian public affairs director for the U.S. Army Reserve Command in Atlanta.

“God only knows at this point where the miscommunication started,” he said.

and, worse:

News of the Army’s move on ready reserves blindsided senior members of Congress, including John Warner, R-Va., chairman of Senate Armed Services Committee.

Several members of the committee said they were not told of the order, despite being briefed on the Iraq war separately on Tuesday by Vice President Dick Cheney and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.

“Not aware of it,” Warner told The Oregonian after Cheney met Tuesday with Senate Republicans over lunch. Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said he also was unaware of the order.

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