For the first time in more than a decade, the US Army is forcing thousands of former soldiers back into uniform, a reflection of the strain on the service of long campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Army officials said on Tuesday that about 5,600 former soldiers -- mostly people who recently left the service and have up-to-date skills in military policing, engineering, logistics, medicine or transportation -- will be assigned to National Guard and Reserve units starting this month, and many will be sent to Iraq by the year's end.
These reservists, members of the Individual Ready Reserve, are distinct from members of the National Guard and Army Reserve because they do not perform regularly scheduled training and are not paid as reservists. They are eligible to be recalled in an "emergency" because their active duty hitches did not complete the service obligation in their enlistment contracts.
The Army was to announce details of the call-up yesterday. It is the first sizable activation of the Individual Ready Reserve since the 1991 Gulf War, though several hundred people have voluntarily returned to service.
The Army is targeting its recall on those who recently left the service and thus have fresher skills than retirees. Any time the military calls on its reservists for wartime duty, political implications arise because of the disruption to civilian lives and businesses. In this case it may reinforce the perception that Iraq is stretching the Army too far.
Lawmaker Rick Larsen, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said on Tuesday that dipping into the Individual Ready Reserve amounts to conscripting people to fight in Iraq.
"If there was any doubt that this administration was conducting a pseudo-draft, this call-up should dispel that doubt," Larsen said.
John Kerry, President George W. Bush's presumed opponent in the fall election, has made similar assessments about Bush's use of reserves and guardsmen. After the Pentagon declared a "stop-loss" this month to prevent the separation of troops, Kerry declared: "They have effectively used a stop-loss policy as a backdoor draft."
The Army said the Individual Ready Reserve members who are recalled will be given at least 30 days' notice before they must report for training.
Vietnam veteran Chuck Luczynski said in an interview Tuesday that he fears his son, Matt, who is getting out of the Army after four years, will be called back as part of the individual reserves. The son returned home in March after a year's tour in Iraq, and he has plans to start a computer programming business.
"I think that's on everybody's mind right now, that they took their turn, and they would hope everybody took a turn so that a few don't carry the many," said the elder Luczynski.
The Army is so stretched for manpower that in April it broke a promise to some active-duty units that they would not have to serve more than 12 months in Iraq. It also extended the tours of other units, including some in Afghanistan.
Those recalled from the Individual Ready Reserve will be assigned to Army Reserve and National Guard units that have been or soon will be mobilized for deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan, unless they petition for exemption based on medical or other limitations.
In January, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld authorized the Army to activate as many as 6,500 people from the Individual Ready Reserve, drawing on presidential authority granted in 2001.
Not until May did the Army begin looking in detail at the available pool of people.
At that point some Army recruiters caused a controversy when they contacted members of the Individual Ready Reserve and suggested they would wind up in Iraq unless they joined a Reserve or Guard unit, a suggestion that some called coercion.
EVOLVING SITUATION: Of the latest cases, 23 percent were found to be asymptomatic, but the coronavirus strain in Da Nang is more contagious, authorities said A COVID-19 outbreak that began in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang more than a week ago has spread to at least four city factories with a combined workforce of about 3,700, state media reported yesterday. Four cases were found at the plants in different industrial parks in the central city that collectively employ 77,000 people, the Lao Dong newspaper said. Vietnam, praised widely for its decisive measures to combat the novel coronavirus since it first appeared in late January, is battling new clusters of infection having gone for more than three months without detecting any domestic transmissions. Authorities yesterday reported one new
‘COVIDIOTS’: Politicians condemned the protest that came amid surging infections in the country, while a marcher said government-induced fear weakened the body Loudly chanting their opposition to masks and vaccines, thousands of people on Saturday gathered in Berlin to protest against COVID-19 restrictions before being dispersed by police. Police put turnout at about 20,000 — well below the 500,000 organizers had announced as they urged a “day of freedom” from months of virus curbs. Despite Germany’s comparatively low toll, authorities are concerned at a rise in infections over the past few weeks and politicians took to social media to criticize the rally as irresponsible. “We are the second wave,” shouted the crowd, a mixture of hard left and right and conspiracy theorists, as they converged
Three Micronesian sailors stranded on a remote Pacific island have been found alive and well after a rescue team spotted their giant SOS message written into the sand on a beach. Australian and US military aircraft found the three men on tiny Pikelot island, nearly 200km west of where they had set off. Rescuers said that the men were “in good condition” with no significant injuries. The men had been missing for three days after their 7m skiff ran out of fuel and strayed off course. Authorities in the US territory of Guam raised the alarm on Saturday after the men failed to complete
A cat that went missing on a family holiday on the shores of Loch Lomond, Scotland, has been identified 12 years later. Tortoiseshell-and-white Georgie spent October half term in 2008 with her owners at the Rowardennan campsite, but vanished as they were due to return home to Greater Manchester, England. After a search of the site the Davies family departed without Georgie, hoping the three-year-old microchipped feline would be located by someone. Over the intervening 12 years, she remained close to the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park site, being fed and cared for by campsite staff and holidaymakers. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit and lockdown