San Diego Union Tribune

August 22, 2006

Marines to recall troops on involuntary basis for Iraq, Afghanistan

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.