By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (Jan. 22, 2010) -- The Army kicks off another year of readiness musters, Jan. 23, for some 14,000 Soldiers in the Individual Ready Reserve.
The readiness muster in Phoenix, Ariz., the first of 19 this year, will help the Army keep track of Soldiers in the IRR, while at the same time it will help those Soldiers stay abreast of the benefits and opportunities available to them.
"The bull's-eye we're hitting are the administrative and medical updates, that's the reason we have the musters," said Brig. Gen. William D. R. Waff, deputy commanding general, U.S. Army Human Resources Command. "And with the readiness musters we really add to that so that Soldiers understand what their benefits are. There's also options to learn about federal employment or to become part of active Reserve units."
All military personnel enter service for a period of eight years -- it's in the contracts they sign, Waff said. Those eight years can be carved up in multiple ways. Many Soldiers, for instance, will serve four years active duty and then separate from active service and serve the remaining four years of their eight-year "military service obligation" in the IRR.
There's about 60,000 Soldiers currently in the IRR, Waff said. They do not drill, wear uniforms, comply with the UCMJ, or even get paid. But once a year, many are called up to "muster," so the Army can ensure the accuracy of their administrative and medical data.
First-year IRR Soldiers will be called to one-on-one musters with career counselors, Waff said.
Others called to the readiness muster won't just stand in line to update their records, he said. They also learn about benefits and opportunities available to them as both IRR members and veterans.
At the Jan. 23 muster at the Veterans Affairs Health Care Facility in Phoenix, Ariz., IRR Soldiers can meet with representatives from the Civilian Human Resources Agency to discuss employment as Army civilians, for instance. Those Soldiers can also learn about opportunities available in the selective Reserve and about medical benefits available to qualified Soldiers through the VA.
Soldiers in the IRR are not entirely unaware of the many benefits and opportunities available to them -- such as the five-point veteran's preference toward federal employment -- Waff said. Many times they've been told, they just don't remember.
"You can tell somebody something three times by mail or e-mail, but when you get them in person and their eyes lock on it, with somebody that can explain the second- and third-order effects of that, that's when they finally say 'oh I didn't know I had this as a benefit ' or 'wow this is a good deal,'" Waff said.
Soldiers who attend a muster are paid $200 for their time.
Army and other services maintain the IRR so that they will have a pool of trained servicemembers, that if needed, can be recalled.
In fiscal year 2007, for instance, the Army recalled 3,400 Soldiers from the IRR. Some went overseas and others served stateside. In FY 2008, that number crept up to 4,400. Of those, 1,100 went to Iraq and 400 to Afghanistan. In FY 2009, 7,000 Soldiers were called up from the IRR. Of those, 1,400 went to Iraq and 550 went to Afghanistan.
In the first quarter of FY 2010, which runs Oct. 1 - Dec. 31, 2009, nearly 3,000 Soldiers were called up from the IRR to fill critical slots in the Army. The numbers for how many went to Iraq and how many to Afghanistan are not yet available.
The FY 2010 Army readiness musters are as follows:
• Jan. 23: Phoenix, Ariz.
• Feb. 6: Fort Knox, Ky.
• Feb. 27-28: Los Angeles, Calif.
• Mar. 6: Puerto Rico
• Mar. 13: Tampa, Fla.
• Mar. 20: Houston, Texas
• Mar. 27: Atlanta, Ga.
• Apr. 10-11: Arlington Heights, Ill.
• Apr. 24-25: Philadelphia, Pa.
• May. 1-2: New York, N.Y.
• May. 22-24: Minneapolis, Minn.
• Jun. 5: Tacoma, Wash.
• Jun. 26-27: Dallas, Texas
• Jul. 17: Temple, Texas
• Jul. 24: .Boston, Mass.
• Jul. 31: Fayetteville, N.C.
• Aug. 7: Denver, Colo.
• Aug. 14-15: Fort Meade, Md.
• Aug. 28: Ann Arbor, Mich.