WASHINGTON – With a continuing demand for forces and
mounting casualty tolls in Iraq, the Marine Corps announced
Tuesday it would involuntarily activate up to 2,500
reservists who chose not to join a drilling unit when they
left active duty.
The reservists, a small fraction of the nearly 59,000
former Marines in the Individual Ready Reserve, could be
getting letters in the next several months notifying them
they could be recalled to active service for 12 to 18
months, Col. Guy A. Stratton said. But not all of those
notified would end up on active duty, Stratton said.
Those who actually are activated would join 7,353 Marine
Reservists already on active duty, about 2,600 now serving
in Iraq with 21,500 active Marines, many on their second or
third combat tours.
Although Stratton tried to avoid saying the involuntary
call up was a reflection of personnel shortages, he finally
conceded that there is “clearly a need” for Marines in Iraq
and Afghanistan that was not being met by active-duty
Marines and reservists who volunteer to return to service.
Stratton, director of Manpower Mobilization Plans at
Marine Corps headquarters, said that based on the expected
requirements for the global war on terror there was a
“projected shortfall” of at least 1,200 Marines, with skills
including “combat arms,” intelligence, communications,
transportation and military police. “Since this is going to
be a long war, we thought it was judicious to use all parts
of the total force,” Stratton said, using the term for the
combination of active and reserve personnel.
The Individual Ready Reserve, or IRR, is made up of
former service members who have some portion of their
eight-year total obligated service remaining after they
leave active duty. Most of them have no plans to ever serve
again and do not join “Selected Reserve” units, which drill
one weekend a month and perform two weeks of active duty for
training each year, and are paid.
A total of 34,467 of the nearly 36,000 Marines in
Selective Reserve units have been mobilized since Sept. 11,
2001. Another 6,350 individual Marine reservists also have
served during that time, many of them voluntarily.
The Marines mobilized 8,321 IRR members in 2002 during
preparation for the invasion of Iraq and nearly 2,000 before
going back into Iraq in 2003.
The Army has called up about 14,000 IRR members, but
thousands of the former service members could not be found
or refused to respond to the recall orders.
IRR Marines who receive the recall letters will be able
to seek delays or exemptions if they have valid employment
or personal reasons why they cannot go on active duty. “Our
intent is to do no harm” to the individual Marine
Reservists, Stratton said.
Those being mobilized will have five months to prepare,
will be entitled to military health care through the
Tri-Care program and will be thoroughly trained before being
deployed, he said.