Over 800 former soldiers ordered to duty have failed to report

Saturday, October 23, 2004

WASHINGTON -- More than 800 former soldiers have failed to comply with Army orders to get back in uniform and report for duty in Iraq or Afghanistan, the Army said Friday. That is more than one-third of the total who were told to report to a mobilization station by Oct. 17.

Three weeks ago the number stood at 622 amid talk that any who refused to report for duty could be declared absent without leave. Refusing to report for duty normally would lead to AWOL charges, but the Army is going out of its way to resolve these cases as quietly as possible.

In all, 4,166 members of the Individual Ready Reserve have received mobilization orders since July 6, of which 2,288 were to have reported by Oct. 17. The others are to report in coming weeks and months.

Of those due to have reported by now, 1,445 have done so, but 843 have neither reported nor asked for a delay or exemption. That no-show rate of 37 percent is roughly in line with the one-third rate the Army had forecast when it began the mobilization to fill positions in regular and Reserve units. By comparison, the no-show total of 622 three weeks ago equated to a 35 percent rate.

Of the 843, the Army has had follow-up contact with 383 and is seeking to resolve their cases, according to figures made public Friday. For the 460 others, "We are still working to establish positive contact," the Army said. Some may not have received the mailed orders.

Members of the Individual Ready Reserve, or IRR, are rarely called to active duty. The last time was 1990, when nearly 20,000 were mobilized. IRR members are people who were honorably discharged after finishing their active-duty tours, usually four to six years, but remained in the IRR for the rest of the eight-year commitment they made when they joined the Army. They are separate from the reserve troops who are more routinely mobilized -- the National Guard and Reserve.

The Army anticipated, based on past experience, that about one-third of the IRR people it called up would be disqualified for medical or other reasons. The trend so far bears that out.

The Marine Corps, meanwhile, said Friday that a Marine killed in western Iraq earlier this week, Sgt. Douglas E. Bascom, 25, of Colorado Springs, Colo., was a member of the Individual Ready Reserve. He was the first IRR Marine to die in Iraq, according to Gunnery Sgt. Kristine Scharber, a spokeswoman at Marine Corps headquarters in the Pentagon.

There are about 400 IRR Marines deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Shane Darbonne, a spokesman for the Marine Corps Mobilization Command.

Army officials said they were uncertain whether any of their Individual Ready Reserve members have been killed in Iraq.

That the Army has had to reach so deeply into its store of reserve soldiers is a measure of the strain the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns have put on the active-duty Army. When the American invading force toppled Baghdad in April 2003, the Army thought it would be sending most of its soldiers home within months. Instead, it has kept 100,000 or more there ever since.

While the number of IRR Army soldiers who have failed to comply with their mobilization order has increased this month, so has the number who have asked for a delay or to be excused from serving.

The number who have requested delays or exemptions has grown from 1,498 (out of a total of 3,899 mobilization orders) in late September to 1,671 (out of a total of 4,166 orders) as of Oct. 17. A little over one-third of the requests have been acted on, with 584 approved and 21 denied.

The Army said some withdrew their requests even after they had been approved. It did not say how many.

On the Net:

Army Human Resources Command at https://www.2xcitizen.usar.army.mil/news/irrcallup.asp

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: