- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 29, 2004


Digging deeper for help in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army is preparing for an involuntary recall to active duty of about 5,600 civilians who have either retired or were discharged after previous service.

In a new sign of the strain the insurgency in Iraq has put on the U.S. military, Army officials said yesterday the move would be the first sizable activation of the Individual Ready Reserve since the 1991 Persian Gulf war. Several hundred people had voluntarily returned to service since the September 11 attacks.

Unlike members of the National Guard and Reserve, individual reservists do not perform regularly scheduled training and receive no pay unless they are called up.

“This was inevitable when it became clear that we would have to maintain significant combat forces in Iraq for a period of years,” said Daniel Goure, a military analyst at the Lexington Institute, an Arlington think tank.

The Army is pinpointing certain staffs in short supply, such as medical specialists and engineers. The intention is to give those selected for recall at least 30 days’ notice, one official said.

The Army is so stretched for manpower that in April it broke a promise to some active-duty units, including the 1st Armored Division, that they would not have to serve more than 12 months in Iraq. It also has extended the tours of other units, including some in Afghanistan.

“It is a reflection of the fact that the [active-duty] military is too small for the breadth of challenges we are facing,” Mr. Goure said.

The men and women recalled from the Individual Ready Reserve will be assigned to Army Reserve units that have been or soon will be mobilized for deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan, unless they successfully petition for exemption based on medical or other limitations.

The Pentagon had hoped to reduce its troop levels in Iraq to about 105,000 this spring, but because of increasingly effective and deadly resistance, the level has risen to about 140,000.

Military officials have said they may need to stay at that level for at least another year or two, a commitment of forces that could not be maintained by the active force alone.

The Army frequently must integrate reservists with its active-duty forces, but it rarely has to reach into the Individual Ready Reserve. The Army has about 117,000 people in this category of reservist; the Navy has 64,000, the Marine Corps 58,000 and the Air Force 37,000.

The military has relied heavily on National Guard and Reserve soldiers in Iraq, in part because some essential specialties, such as military police, are found mainly in the reserves rather than the active-duty force and partly because the mission has required more troops than planned.

Reserve troops make up at least one-third of the U.S. force in Iraq, and this month they have accounted for nearly half of all troops killed in combat.

In January, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld authorized the Army to activate as many as 6,500 people from the Individual Ready Reserve, drawing on presidential authority granted in 2001.

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