1 in 3 IRR soldiers fail to report for mobilization
By Jane McHugh, Army Times, September 27, 2004

Many troops claim 'family situations'

About 30 percent of the 3,664 Individual Ready Reserve soldiers who have been called to active duty failed to report for mobilization, an Army Reserve official said.

 The soldiers submitted papers for a "delay and exemption" process, claiming personal and professional matters that prevent them from showing up.

 "Mainly it's family situations, such as someone's a sole parent or is taking care of someone in the family with a severe medical condition, or even they themselves have a serious illness," said Lt. Col. Burt Masters, a spokesman for the Army Human Resources Command in St. Louis.

 The IRR members were supposed to report at staggered times from late August through late October to five mobilization stations nationwide, he said. The stations are Fort Jackson, S.C.; Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.; Fort Sill, Okla.; Fort Knox, Ky.,; and Fort Benning, Ga.

 A total of 1,085 IRR members submitted "delay and exemption" packets containing written documentation verifying their situation, Masters said. Written records from courts, physicians, businesses and government agencies are included in these packets, which are reviewed by a special board comprised of officers. Final approval comes from Col. Debra A. Cook, who heads the Human Resources Command in St. Louis, Masters said.

 IRR soldiers who disagree with Cook's findings can appeal to the adjutant general of the Army, he said.

 Several reasons cited

 According to Masters, the leading reasons that IRR soldiers request delays and exemptions are: medical causes or disabilities; ;administrative mix-ups; ;financial hardship; being the sole caretakers for children or elderly parents,; and completing higher education.

 the Army announced June 30 that it would activate up to 5,600 civilians on the IRR list between July 6 and early 2005 for the global war on terrorism. Whether there will be more call-ups is anyone's guess.

 "We have not been told by the Department of the Army to cut more orders," Masters said.

 Those who have not filed for exemptions, and who don't show up within seven days of their reporting date will be considered AWOL, and possibly will be charged as deserters. So far, 14 IRR people have been confirmed AWOL, Masters said.

 As inactive reservists, IRR members don't drill, and ;are not assigned to a unit. Those who recently reported for duty are in-processing, playing catch-up with common task training and going through refresher courses.

 "We all do PT at our own pace," said Spc. Shavonda Bivens, 27, an Army transportation management coordinator who recently arrived at Fort Jackson, S.C. A guard at her local jail in Tifton, Ga., Bivens is a single mother who left the Army in May 2002 and didn't give a thought to the IRR until the end of July.

 "I got orders saying I was being activated back into the Army," Bivens said. "I never thought they'd call the IRR."

 Bivens' 3-year-old son is being cared for by her sister and her mother.

 In the beginning, the IRR adventure is quite different from the Regular Army, Bivens said. "You're not with a unit. You meet a lot of new people. And you have command sergeants major and colonels living in the same building," Bevins said.

 Another Fort Jackson IRR soldier, Master Sgt. Lisa Turner, 45, is a former Marine and Army Reservist. Her family, including parents, husband and two oldest daughters, is in the military.

 Turner and her husband, a retired Marine, have three children living at home. But no one in the family minded the IRR call-up notice, she said, even though her husband had to quit his state government job in Maine as a wildlife biologist because it was too far from their home.

 Earlier, Turner was called up by the Marine Corps Reserve for the first Persian Gulf War.

 "That time, I had five days to get ready and four children under 12. This time I had 30 days," she said.

 IRR soldiers are given 30 days of advance notice to report to their mobilization station.

 Mailgrams returned

 But some - aside from those who have applied for delays and exemptions - haven't shown up because the mailgrams ordering them to report for duty were returned to the Army because they had outdated addresses, Masters said.

 Of the 3,664 call-ups, 464 mailgrams were returned, but 367 of those were "resolved," Masters said, and the proper addresses were determined. The Army is in the process of tracking down the remaining 97, he said.