IRR Call-Up Scam III

One of my correspondents, a retired lieutenant colonel who spent years working at the Pentagon, shares my suspicions that the memorandum Kevin Drum has received is a hoax:

This OPORD has many of the elements found in “urban myth”, “urban legend” or “hoax” emails that make the rounds. I, too, have never seen an OPORD/WARNORD sent to an individual. Normal communications with individuals is via letter. This one does not appear to be real — if it is, then the formality and quality of military correspondence has seriously deteriorated. It’s too folksy in several part for one thing. I also don’t believe that the time frames indicated in the OPORD are realistic for such an undertaking. I also don’t believe the wholesale call up of IRR is practical. Normally, the IRR is cherry picked for specific skill-experience, not mass call up.

Who has an “original” of the OPORD and how did they receive it? Why would they receive it, as it does not direct the individual reservist to do anything?

In fact the HRC at any given time does not know where about 1/3 of the people assigned to the IRR are located because it is the INACTIVE reserve. HRC depended on folks assigned to inactive status to take the initiative and give them updates on their address changes. Not a very likely scenario as most of these folks (probably 20-25 year olds) too are busy doing other things to worry about HRC records. In fact there was a news article yesterday, Wednesday, about the HRC using the IRS to help locate and update the addresses of IRR members. [Noted on OTB Tuesday.]

He also points me to this on the Army’s Human Resources site: Screening of Obligated Individual Ready Reserve Soldiers for Possible Assignment to Army Reserve Units

The Army’s Human Resources Command – St. Louis (HRC-STL), is identifying Individual Ready Reserve Soldiers with a statutory Military Service Obligation (MSO) remaining for possible assignment to an Army Reserve unit. These Soldiers may be assigned to position vacancy requirements within designated Reserve units based upon the needs of the Army.

At this time, there have been no involuntary assignments of IRR Soldiers to any Army Reserve units. The HRC-STL is identifying IRR Soldiers for possible assignment. HRC-STL is responsible for the management of all Army IRR soldiers and has standard business processes in place.

It goes on to provide information about volunteering and such but it’s clear that there is no immediate mass call-up underway. The paragraph style of the notice on the HRC site is much more typical than the OPORD/WARNORD format in the memo in Kevin’s possession for administrative business.

Update: The press is finally taking notice of this situation. Joseph Galloway has a piece in the Miami Herald entitled, “Iraq Duty Makes Army Reach Deep For Reserves.” The gist of the piece is that, as one would expect, the Army is looking for specific skills sets:

The U.S. Army is scraping up soldiers for duty in Iraq wherever it can find them, and that includes places and people long considered off-limits.

The Army on Tuesday confirmed that it pulled the files of some 17,000 people in the Individual Ready Reserve, the nation’s pool of former soldiers. The Army has been screening them for critically needed specialists and has called about 100 of them since January.

Under the current authorization from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the Army could call as many as 6,500 back on active duty involuntarily.

”Yes we are screening them and, yes, we are calling some of them up,” an Army spokesman, Col. Joseph Curtin, told Knight Ridder. “We need certain specialties, including civil affairs, military police, some advanced medical specialists, such as orthopedic surgeons, psychological operations, military intelligence interrogators.”

The Army has been forced to look to the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) pool and elsewhere for soldiers because it has been stretched so thin by a recent decision to maintain American troop levels in Iraq at 135,000 to 138,000 at least through 2005.

The Army also is considering a plan to close its premier training center at Fort Irwin in California so the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, the much-vaunted Opposition Force against which the Army’s tank divisions hone their combat skills, would be available for combat duty in Iraq.

Both of these moves make short-term sense. The IRR has long been thought “untouchable” simply because we’ve not been on a serious wartime footing in a generation. There would be no point in having it if people couldn’t be called up. The 11th ACR is an elite unit and would certainly be useful to have available. The problem, of course, is that doing so would have a longer term negative impact, since the realistic training at NTC is a big part of why our force is so proficient.

Inside The Pentagon — Army Recruiters Pressed Reservists To Re-Enlist Before Iraq Call-Up [$]

Over the past two weeks, a number of Army recruiters across the country have mistakenly put reserve soldiers under intense pressure to re-enlist before they could be called up involuntarily for possible service in Iraq, according to military officials. Recruiters made dozens — perhaps hundreds — of calls to members of the Individual Ready Reserve, or IRR, based on erroneous guidance from personnel headquarters, military officials tell Inside the Pentagon.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his advisers currently are considering whether manpower strains in ongoing operations make it necessary to involuntarily assign a large number of IRR members to operational units, according to Lt. Col. Burt Masters, spokesman for the Army Human Resources Command in St. Louis. About 340 IRR members have been involuntarily ordered to active duty recently, but a larger call-up may be in the offing, Masters said.

The Human Resources Command was asked to “screen†the more than 118,000 Army IRR reservists to update their locations and eligibility for unit assignment, should the Office of the Secretary of Defense make an IRR call-up decision, Masters said.

The Army Individual Ready Reserve primarily comprises soldiers who have previously trained and served in the armed forces and may have some period of military obligation remaining. They are not attached to any unit and do not participate in regular exercises.

As of Tuesday (May 18), the command in St. Louis had narrowed down potentially eligible IRR members to about 40,000, and then concluded that about 22,000 of those reservists have a remaining military obligation, a prerequisite for being assigned involuntarily to a unit that is subject to being deployed, said another Army spokesman. Army job specialties of particular interest for assignment to units include military intelligence, civil affairs, medical, transportation and military police, Masters noted.

But some recruiting and retention officials have jumped the gun, misinterpreting the screening process as an indication that IRR call-ups are imminent, Masters said. A number of “overzealous†recruiters — in the words of one Army spokesman — have used the prospect of a possible call-up to push reservists to re-enlist voluntarily before a supposed “May 18 deadline.†But no date for IRR call-ups has been announced, Masters said.

The piece is rather long, but it’s very much being portrayed as a SNAFA.

So, the bottom line would appear to be that there is indeed a plan to call up selected IRR members and that some people have created substantial mischief based on the plan, both in terms of circulating a fake “warning order” greatly exaggerating the situation and exploiting it for illicit recruiting purposes. Indeed, it wouldn’t come as a complete shock to me if the memo that’s circulating was created by an enterprising recruiter.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. delta dave says:

    You said, “Indeed, it wouldn’t come as a complete shock to me if the memo that’s circulating was created by an enterprising recruiter.”

    My guess it was created by someone in the Seattle area …. because that is where the 70th RRC is located. I suspect it was created as office humor by someone with too much free time…. and sent to a friend or two as a joke. Note the line in paragraph d: “…will conduct a house call to find the soldier. We will track down every soldier.” Not a likely scenario … for a large variety of reasons.

    I think the joke got away from them and entered the urban legend domain.

  2. irr member says:

    This is all a scam the U.S. has got into a mess they can’t handle.Now innocent veterans must stop what they are doing just to go and play G.I. Joe for a confused fool like the President.

  3. Reserve member says:

    There are also rumors that the army is getting rid of the IRR period does anyone know any trust behind that, or is that just another scared tactic.

  4. rfmjb says:

    Well, I don’t know about ‘scare tactic’, but the IRR option is no longer available for many Army Reservists this year. My husband has been in almost 6 years and was deployed for 5 of them. He asked to go IRR this month, he’s back in college this summer, and he was flatly denied. Several people in his previous unit in the Northeast have also told us they were turned down to go IRR.

  5. Reserve member says:

    I just read in the army time that a soldier was mislead and told that the IRR was no more so he re-enlist and founded out that it wasn’t true and did something about and now the army has apologized and they revoke his order to active duty because the recruiter mislead him.

  6. Brian D. Walter says:

    I received two different calls one form the Army Reserve and one from the Natinal Guard. The Reserve told me I would have orders cut before the month is over and will be assigned to an Engineer Co. that is deploying to Irag this fall. I can’t find anything showing my MOS is crittical, I am a 12B and now Im told that is changed to a 21B. My eight year commitment is up in September and I was curious if they extend you beyond that period. A lawyer and former Marine said no. It only matters because people should be informed and its obvious our current President and staff lied to us and will continue to lie to us. I wouls also be taking a $32,000 pay cut yes $32,000 to go back to active status. Because Of nerve damage in my right shoulder the doctor told me I will be medicaly discharged. We as soldiers who served and gave our commitment need the facts. Lastly I want to take a moment to remember those who serve and those who have served.

  7. Marlynn H. Mobel says:

    well i can’t say i look forward to being deployed again but hell someones gotta do a job that we know only we can do.

  8. Anon says:

    I just got of an involuntary IRR call up for one year. Does anyone know if an IRR member can be called up twice in the four year period?

  9. Nate says:

    I just got a call from a member of my NG unit and was told to contact the recruiter about reup. Was told that IRR was going to be activating members for buty in Iraq. Contacted the recruiter and was suggested that I should reup to avoid an involuntary activation from IRR. He said that an activation in my unit was still possible if I reup but not as likely as with the IRR. Found it suspisious that my recruiter didn’t contact me directly he had someone else do it, possibley to avoid implications in scare tactics. Because of this I contacted him about reenlisting insted of him contacting me. This all seems a little odd. Is this BS to boost enlistment?

  10. Alan says:

    I also got a call from a NG rep saying they had slots open and that my name was on the list. He also stated that the Reserves were working off the same list and that I may be reactivated for duty. I don’t see why everyone is complaining. The first thing you should have learned was to not sign anything before you know what it is and “don’t volunteer for anything.” You’re in the IRR. Yeah, it’s “inactive” but it’s also “ready”. I’ll have to take a substantial pay cut also, but I have always known there would be a possibility of me getting re-called. I also have a child due in 1 month and I will still go if I am re-called. If you have a problem with the system, check the box on the paperwork they send out every year saying you want out for whatever reason or resign your commission.

  11. Brian D. Walter says:

    It is now June 8th and I still haven’t received any orders calling me back to active duty status. I did however find out that they can extend you beyond your eight year commitment although I was not given a regulation backing this up. I can’t wait for the election so we can get rid of the idiots in command currently!