- WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The
U.S. Army, now mobilizing 5,600 former soldiers from a rarely used personnel
pool to go to Iraq and Afghanistan, plans to summon a similar number next
year for duty in those war zones, a senior official said on Friday.
- The Army also said it plans to step up recruitment efforts
to try to meet goals to sign up 80,000 new soldiers for the regular Army
and 22,000 for the Army Reserve in the fiscal year that began on Friday.
The Army recruiting command's chief acknowledged the wars were deterring
some potential recruits.
- To plug shortfalls in certain skills in units being deployed,
the Army has tapped the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR), made up of 111,000
people who have completed voluntary military commitments and have returned
to civilian life but remain eligible to be mobilized in a national emergency.
- The Army said about 3,900 of the 5,600 IRR soldiers scheduled
to be summoned to active duty already have received orders to report. The
mobilization, which began in July, is intended to yield about 4,400 soldiers
for duty in Iraq and Afghanistan in the coming weeks and months after the
Army provides service exemptions for medical problems and other hardships.
- Robert Smiley, a senior Army official involved in personnel
mobilization, said the Army also expected in mid-2005 to begin mobilizing
about another 5,600 from the IRR.
- "It will be a one-for-one swap, essentially,'' Smiley
told reporters, with the 5,600 IRR soldiers being mobilized next year,
replacing the current IRR soldiers after they complete 12-month combat
- "It will be a one-for-one swap, essentially,'' for
the IRR soldiers currently being mobilized after they complete 12-month
combat tours, Smiley told reporters.
- Critics have cited the Army's reliance on the IRR as
evidence that it has too few soldiers to sustain force levels in Iraq and
- 'A NATION AT WAR'
- "We're a nation at war. And we need these people
to come on active duty,'' said Brig. Gen. Sean Byrne, the Army's director
of personnel policy.
- Of the IRR members whose date to report for duty has
already arrived, roughly one-third have not shown up on time, with most
of those requesting service exemptions or a delay in reporting, Byrne said.
- Lt. Col. Pamela Hart, an Army spokeswoman at the Pentagon,
said the Army has identified six IRR members who have not reported by the
date ordered, and have not requested an exemption from service or a delay
- These six people potentially could face future criminal
charges if deemed absent without leave, or AWOL, although Hart said charges
were unlikely and noted that commanders have a great deal of discretion
in how to handle these cases.
- A spokeswoman for the Army Human Resources Command had
said on Tuesday that eight IRR members had been listed as AWOL.
- Byrne said the Human Resources Command was mistaken,
adding, "No one is considered in an AWOL status right now.''
- Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. Michael Rochelle, head of the Army
Recruiting Command, said the Army is adding 1,000 recruiters and $12 million
in advertising money to boost efforts to sign up fresh soldiers. In the
fiscal year that ended Thursday, the regular Army and Army Reserve met
recruiting goals, while the Army National Guard fell short.
- "Obviously there's a war going on. No one would
deny that. And for some people, for some of our prospects for our target
age, young men and women, that is in fact a drawback. And it will deter
some of them,'' Rochelle told reporters.
- "Many of them, once presented with the facts, can
be convinced otherwise.''
- Copyright 2004 Reuters Ltd.