Bush Senior started the draw down of military forces with the closing of bases and the cutting back of the lavish funding from the Reagan years. As a Staff Sergeant in the Air Force, I was seeing the results. We stopped getting pay increases; it was harder to get replacement parts for equipment.
Under Clinton, the process continued. More base closures happened. We were given a couple of pay increases, but nothing like what we got under Reagan. The draw down continued too. People who had black marks against their records were no longer able to meet the promotion exam, and were routed out of the Air Force for failure to promote.
But Clinton had a carrot to dangle in front of us. For those of us who were under an enlistment contract, we were offered a lot of money to agree to break our contract. This was because the older enlistment contracts basically said that as long as we kept our nose clean, we couldn’t be let go. (Enlistment contracts signed by new recruits today now include the provision that the military can kick them out at any time, for any reason.)
There were two such ‘carrots’ dangled in front of those Air Force members who qualified for early termination of enlistment. Depending on time in service, and time in grade, you were offered an amount of money to get out immediately. You were offered a much larger amount of money to get out in a slightly different way.
Here’s how it worked for me – I was offered either 30 thousand dollars, or one hundred thousand, depending on which ‘carrot’ I chose.
The 30 thousand would be paid in a lump sum, and got me out of active duty immediately; but placed me on Individual Ready Reserve for 3 years. During that 3-year time I’d have a special ID card that would allow me to use on-base privileges.
The hundred thousand was offered to me over a 20-year period – to be paid in yearly amounts of five thousand dollars. During those 20 years, I would be on Individual Ready Reserve, with a special ID card and on-base privileges.
The dot-com boom was just starting, my job prospects as a civilian looked great. I wanted out. Along with all other military, I had noticed what happened during Desert Storm. Instead of sending in Active Duty – Bush Senior had sent in the Guard to take care of Iraq. Many Guardsmen returned home to financial loss or divorce.
I was also very aware of how retirees were being treated, even back during Desert Storm. Veteran’s hospitals were being closed, Veterans benefits were being reduced. It didn’t make sense for me to stay when my service was being ignored. I’d served for 10 years – it was time to find other ways to contribute.
I took the 30 thousand, and went into IRR. Four years after my IRR service expired, Bush Junior started the current Iraq war. Unless I volunteer, or a draft is started that includes people over the age of 40, I can’t be pulled in to support a war effort that I disagree with. I can’t be forced into a job that would only pay a fraction of the income that I currently receive.
For some people, like single mother Patricia Arndt, this really matters. Ms. Arndt (her rank isn’t given) was last active duty in the ’80s, and then moved to a special non-combat category. Last year, apparently in preparation for leaving the Army, she went into IRR. Once she hit that category, the Army pounced on her and has ordered back to active duty.
According to Army officials, approximately 110,000 Army personnel are listed in the Individual Ready Reserve. By law, they may be called up for as long as two years to fill vacancies. But because they are not attached to any unit, they may go years without the training and supervision needed to transition back to active duty, officials said. The Army has traditionally not sent IRR soldiers into battle.
The war in Iraq, now 21/2 years old, has changed that. Currently, more than 6,500 ready reservists have been called back to active duty, including Chief Warrant Officer Margaret Murray, 56, of Schenectady. While receiving training at Fort Jackson last year, Murray told Newsday that she hoped she would not be sent into combat. If she is sent, she said, “I’ll do the best I can.”
In her old category, “individual mobilization augmentee reservist”, Ms. Arndt wasn’t qualified for an active duty assignment. Her job was to take the place of stateside reservists who had been activated and sent to Iraq. Most likely this meant training maybe once a month – certainly nothing that would interfere with her civilian job.
Like me, it’s obvious that Ms. Arndt saw the writing on the wall, and started the process to become a civilian. Even modern active duty members who process out of the military are required to fulfill an IRR requirement of a year or two. I would guess that something like this is happening to Ms Arndt. She went IRR as a preliminary to becoming a full civilian – and instead was dragged into the war.
President Bush has promised us that America has plenty of soldiers – that we don’t need to start a draft. Rumsfield has said that commanders in Iraq have all the people they need.
But America has sent Active Duty soldiers into the fray. When that wasn’t enough they sent the Guard. That still isn’t enough, so they implemented ‘Stop Loss” where the military can refuse to allow a solder to quit when his enlistment is up. They implemented reactivation of the Individual Ready Reserve – where those people who thought they were done with the military are being called back in.
I have friends who have been on IRR for 10 years or more – some are grandparents now. Is it right to drag them into the military again just so President Bush can continue to claim a draft isn’t needed?
Should a citizen on IRR go back into the military if called? Yes, it was part of the agreement. I was prepared to go if needed.
I expected that I would be called back to duty to help out with an influx of new recruits due to a draft. I was told by my commander after I informed him of my decision to leave that the only reason anyone would be called into active duty from IRR would be because of a major conflict that required a large amount of troops – including draftees.
Is it right to call back IRR instead of using the draft to relieve troop pressure? No. It’s dead wrong. It was done dishonestly so that Bush junior could tell everyone that he wasn’t going to start a draft. That’s the only reason – political gain.
Our current leaders don’t have the best interest of this nation’s Veterans in mind. If you’re a vet the GOP could care less about you.