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U.S. Army IRR Shoulder Sleeve Insignia worn by Army Reservists activated under the IRR.

The Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) is a category of the Ready Reserve of the Reserve Component of the Armed Forces of the United States composed of former active duty or reserve military personnel and is authorized under 10 U.S.C. ch. 1005. For soldiers in the National Guard of the United States, its counterpart is the Inactive National Guard (ING). As of 22 June 2004, the IRR had approximately 112,000 members (does not include all service IRR populations) composed of enlisted personnel and officers, with more than 200 Military Occupational Specialties are represented, including combat arms, combat support, and combat service support. An individual assigned to the IRR typically receives no pay and is not obligated to drill, conduct annual training, or participate in any military activities (except for periodic Muster activities) until activated by Presidential Reserve Callup Authority or until electing to drill, train, or serve in a "Drill without Pay" or an "Active Duty" role. Unlike members of the Standby Reserve (active and inactive) and Retired Reserve, IRR personnel are members of the Ready Reserve and as such, they retain their status as uniformed military personnel, their military specialty (i.e., pilot, Surface Warfare Officer, infantryman, intelligence officer or enlisted intelligence specialist, etc.) and rank/pay grade. IRR personnel also receive benefits similar to other members of the Reserve Components of the Armed Forces to include: Entitlement to a Military ID Card, ID Cards for their dependents, PX/BX/NEX/MCX/CGX (Exchange) benefits, Commissary benefits, and MWR (Morale Welfare and Recreation) Benefits. (Note: These benefits are only available to IRR Members in the "CONUS" 48 States.) An individual assigned to the IRR may receive pay and full benefits (including medical care and dental care for member and dependents) for voluntarily performing specific types of active duty. Because members of the IRR rarely serve on extended active duty and are not retired from military service most are not eligible for TRICARE. However, if honorably discharged, they do have the VA for medical benefits. GAO:DOD Actions Needed to Improve the Efficiency of Mobilizations for Reserve Forces</ref>

By law, IRR members are required to retain possession of their service uniforms, retain their military identification card, and notify their service branch if they move and change their address.

Upon being called up, service members will usually be screened for their medical and personal status in order to qualify or disqualify them for activation. During the process, IRR members who seek to delay, defer, or exempt their activations have the opportunity to present their case to the mobilization authority for a decision.

An enlisted service member's IRR service ends after the completion of their mandatory service obligation (MSO), usually 8 years.

The Individual Ready Reserve, Selected Reserve, and Inactive National Guard comprise the three Ready Reserve programs.

Callup authority and activation

"Presidential Reserve Callup Authority" (PRCA) is a provision of a public law (US Code, Title 10 (DOD), section 12304) that provides the President a means to activate, without a declaration of national emergency, not more than 200,000 members of the Selected Reserve and the Individual Ready Reserve (of whom not more than 30,000 may be members of the Individual Ready Reserve), for not more than 400 days to meet the support requirements of any operational mission. Members called under this provision may not be used for disaster relief or to suppress insurrection. This authority has particular utility when used in circumstances in which the escalatory national or international signals of partial or full mobilization would be undesirable. Forces available under this authority can provide a tailored, limited-scope, deterrent or operational response, or may be used as a precursor to any subsequent mobilization.[1]

When the nation is under a presidentially declared state of national emergency in accordance with the National Emergencies Act the President has even broader authority, allowing him to activate not more than 1,000,000 members of the Ready Reserve with no further limitation.[2] The United States has been in a state of national emergency since November 14, 1979.[3]

When activated by Presidential Reserve Callup Authority, soldiers are required to follow the activation instructions contained in Army Regulation 135-91 specifying that members of the IRR can be required to join an Army Reserve unit if they are statutorily obligated and have a skill needed by the Army. Reserve soldiers are normally obligated to serve up to two years active duty, a requirement that is waiverable by the individual soldier, mission constraints, or the needs of the Army. The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), the portion of public law that primarily governs the military as a subset of the general population, is applicable to soldiers activated from the Individual Ready Reserve as of the date that their activating orders require them to report.[4] This subjects them to the possibility of punishment under UCMJ for being Absent Without Leave (AWOL) if they choose to resist activation.[5]

Activations in the War on Terror

Until the War on Terror, members of the Individual Ready Reserve had not been called up since Operation Desert Storm.[6] A major difficulty in activating the IRR stems from the fact that many of its members, typically those from the junior enlisted ranks, are unaware that they are even in the military. This results from such members typically being informed that they are "discharged" upon release from active duty when in fact they have been transferred to the inactive reserves. To solve this situation, many military separation transition courses now spend additional time explaining the nature of the inactive reserve. As of 2005, the military also began to enact "IRR Musters" which were once a year occurrences where an IRR member would be required to report to a military base, confirm their personal and contact information, and sign acknowledgment paperwork that they were members of the IRR.

The military has encountered isolated incidents of IRR members who "disappear" and cannot be located or IRR members who refuse to mobilize, stating they were advised that they were "out of the military". This normally has little impact on benefits obtained following release from active duty, but can lead to a less-than-honorable discharge from the reserves.


In March 2004, Army Human Resources Command began identifying IRR soldiers with Military Occupational Specialties that met the needs of the Army at that time. In June 2004, those soldiers were transferred into Selected Reserve units to begin drilling, training, and preparing for deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.


The Marines began activating their IRR members beginning in 2001. They were allotted up to 2500 Marines to be activated at any one time. So far, two major activations have occurred, targeting mostly Corporals and Sergeants and those with high-demand training (combat arms, logistics, maintenance, etc.).

History of War on Terror activations

February 2003:

  • Marine Corps Arabic linguists and other support personnel were recalled to active duty to serve in Iraq. This activation was the first time that the IRR had been called upon since the 1991 Gulf War, when approximately 20,000 IRR troops were called up in support of Operation Desert Storm.

29 July 2004:

  • 5,600 members of the IRR, mainly with specialties as military police or Civil Affairs, were called to active duty to support U.S. forces in Iraq.

April 2005:

  • Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld authorized the Army to mobilize up to 6,500 Individual Ready Reservists at any one time.[7]
  • 3,900 IRR members with critical specialties called to active duty.
  • About 550 of those called failed to report for duty, some claimed exemptions, others ignored their orders.

August 2006:

March 2007:

  • Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates approved the recall of 1800 Marines not in their first or last year of their IRR contract, 1200 of which were Sergeants and Captains joining the I MEF in Iraq. Specialties recalled included:
    • Aviation maintenance, 361
    • Logistics support, 225
    • Infantry, tanks and artillery, 223
    • Motor transport, 178
    • Communications, 97
    • Intelligence, 95
    • Military police, 21

They were used for early rotation into a 2008 deployment. If more troops were needed, another recall was planned for July.[9]

August 2007:

  • The Marines sent out another recall for a September 2007.[10] muster and screening for possible activation in early 2008.

April 2008:

  • The Marines sent out another recall for a May 30 muster and screening for a possible activation in October 2008.
  • In September 2008, The Marines sent out another notification of recall for an involuntary muster and screening on October 12 for activation on May 18, 2009.[citation needed]

As of March 2009, the US Army had recalled 26,954 ready reservists since September 11, 2001. Of those, 10,592 requested exemptions of which 6,352 were granted.[11]

Delay, Deferment & Exemption (DD&E)

Delay, Deferment and Exemption (DD&E) are the methods by which a service member may be relieved of immediate activation.

  • Delay – When a service member cannot be activated immediately (for example, they are getting married soon), but they are for all other reasons qualified, and can be called up later for activation. Usually the delay will last up to 4–6 months depending on the needs of the activation.
  • Deferment – The service member cannot serve immediately for a fixed amount of time (for example, the service member is in school and will graduate within a year), but can be called up later when the situation changes.
  • Exemption – The service member has an immutable characteristic which will never qualify them for activation (for example, the service member is an ordained religious member).

See also


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