Alex Horton of Army of Dude is, in my opinion, one of the best writers in the blogosphere. He’s a veteran of the Iraq war and a contributor at VetVoice. His posts on his time in Iraq, often filled with photos and videos, have been one of my most important windows into the war, free of media filter. Alex has a post up today about the Individual Ready Reserve, which he and two of his best friends moved to when they left active duty. He describes the decision as playing Russian Roulette, which seems to be tragically accurate. His post today points out that his two friends have both been called up to active duty. Alex writes:
I was at work when my pocket sent out a cheerful tone alerting me of a new text message. I pulled out my phone to see a new message from Steve. I figured it was some trivia question. I could tell he carried his debating persona back home from the messages he sent me. He asked about actors in movies and lesser known points of history that must have come up in discussions with his friends. I opened it to see that it had nothing to do with trivia.
“I just got official orders to go back dude.”
My knees almost gave way after reading and rereading the message. I called him right away to offer any kind of help I could. As the phone rang, I looked down at my silver KIA bracelet and ran my fingers over the etched lettering – CPL BRIAN L. CHEVALIER 14 MARCH 2007 BAQUBAH, IRAQ.
A thousand miles away, Steve was wearing the same bracelet.
I relayed to Steve all the information I had gathered on the IRR. I spent countless hours hunched over my computer researching IRR callups, a challenge considering the intentionally scant information put out by the DoD and Army Human Resources Command. I told him to sign up for any classes, get a doctor’s note for any condition, anything that could delay or exempt him from mobilization. There is no shame in it. Steve volunteered during a war, knowing that he would be sent into combat. Not only combat ensued, but the bloodiest fight in Iraq since Fallujah. Steve did his time, and more. His place is at home, not on the battlefield anymore.
By way of Lt. Nixon, Thomas Ricks notes a Pentagon study that reveals troop levels have remained relatively the same since 9/11. A more alarming statistic: 6% of active duty troops have served more than 25 months in a combat zone while 74% have less than twelve months in. The study concludes that the lower to mid enlisted and company grade officers are carrying the most burden. Senior officers and NCOs are hiding like cockroaches in the cracks of TRADOC posts and non-deployable slots while lower level soldiers march to the steady drumbeat of repeated deployments, failed marriages and ever-mounting cases of suicide. On top of that, the IRR continues to mobilize soldiers that have moved on, going to school or beginning careers and families. The only way to lessen the burden is to grow the size of the force. One idea: take the database of the newly minted Red State Strike Force members and dump them into mobilization slots. Those pathetic goons want to wear patches styled after special forces to fight on a battlefield of snark. They want to organize. I can think of no better way to organize than a shout of, “Dress right, dress!” The slack has to be picked up somewhere, lest our forces remain so broken that we must rely on involuntary callups to get bodies to the fight.
Steve’s future hangs in the balance. School has been put on hold until a review board decides if he is fit to go back to Iraq. I have described the looming threat of recall as an ubiquitous afterthought, constantly degrading the sense of normalcy and safety as the days pile on. Now that recall has manifested itself as a clumsy destroyer of futures, the feeling has changed. Not only mental, the dread has become physical, hanging in my stomach like a sharply cornered anvil. My old infantry sore spots – back, knees and ankles – throb in a dull ache. The burden is back squarely on my shoulders, but I cannot imagine what Steve is feeling right now. I just know that as his best friend, a thousand miles away, I must carry some for him.
VetVoice has a list of resources on IRR. I’m reprinting them below for anyone looking for more information.
- Basic Information
- Army HRC Mobilization Information (Log-in required)
- Army HRC FAQ
- AR 135-91: Service Obligation Requirements and Procedures
- AR 601-25: IRR Delay and Exemption Regulations
- AR 40-501: Standards of Medical Fitness
- DoD Directive 1235.13: Management of the Individual Ready Reserve
- The Command TOC: IRR Information (Blog)
- Colonel Joe’s IRR Advice
- Legal Assistance