Global Policy Forum

Army Expects Further Involuntary Troop Call-Up


By Will Dunham

June 30, 2004

Thousands more former soldiers could be ordered to Iraq and Afghanistan in addition to 5,600 reservists already set to be called back into active-duty service, the Army said on Wednesday.

The Army is tapping into the Individual Ready Reserve, a rarely used pool now numbering 111,000 former soldiers who remain eligible to be called to active duty for years after completing their voluntary Army commitment and returning to civilian life. Many have been out of uniform for years. "I would think that there's going to be soldiers who, yes, will be shocked. But I would say that the majority of the soldiers in the IRR today understand that they are in the Army," Col. Debra Cook, head of the Army's Human Resources Command, told a briefing. These soldiers will begin to receive mobilization orders on July 6, said Robert Smiley, an Army official dealing with training, readiness and mobilization.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in January approved an Army request to mobilize up to 6,500 soldiers from this reserve pool -- being used in large numbers for the first time in 13 years -- and the Army initially plans to mobilize 5,674 soldiers, officials said. But Smiley said perhaps thousands more could be involuntarily mobilized. "We expect to call some more," Smiley said. These soldiers could remain on active duty for up to two years "based on mission requirements," Smiley said.

Army soldiers have been serving yearlong deployments in Iraq, although about 20,000 saw their tour extended by three months this spring. Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, told reporters in a conference call arranged by presidential candidate John Kerry's campaign that the move "represents a major failure in planning for the Iraq and Afghanistan efforts."


"The active-duty army is too small to handle the ongoing missions that it has," Levin said. Smiley disagreed. "No, I don't think the Army's too small. We're using a manpower pool that's available to us. This is good personnel management," Smiley said.

Rep. Charles Rangel, a New York Democrat who has introduced a bill opposed by the Pentagon to reinstate the military draft, said, "The Bush administration is resorting to the absolute worst kind of draft. It is forcing those people who have already honorably served and been discharged back into the service." Smiley said soldiers who already have served in Iraq or Afghanistan but left active duty before July 2003 could be mobilized and sent back there. Those who served there in the past year but have left active duty could only be sent back if they volunteered. These troops, many from California and Texas, will fill vacancies in National Guard and Army Reserve units set to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan this year and early 2005, officials said. Many have skills in big demand, including as military police, engineers and truck drivers, officials said.

The United States has about 140,000 troops in Iraq and 20,000 in Afghanistan.

People in the Individual Ready Reserve, who have no training requirements, differ from the part-time troops in the National Guard and Reserve, who train together in units during the summer and weekends. Army officials were asked what would happen if a mobilized soldier showed up too fat or out of shape to serve. Soldiers will be given an opportunity to come up Army standards but if they fall short "they will be returned to their civilian status. We will not send untrained, unready soldiers to the theater," said Bernard Oliphant of the Army Mobilization Division.

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