The Marine Corps is getting ready to notify thousands of Marines who have recently left the service that they may soon be needed back in uniform to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The move is to make up for a shortfall of volunteers from the Marine Corps Individual Ready Reserve who have been serving in hard-to-fill positions in Iraq and Afghanistan. The tours of duty will likely last an average of 12 to 18 months as they train with their new units, deploy and return home.
Service members who decide to leave active duty or retire automatically become members of the Individual Ready Reserve, or IRR, for varying lengths of time.
Unlike Marine Corps Reservists who regularly train with their units, the only requirement of IRR Marines is that they present themselves once a year to update their contact information. There are currently 59,000 former Marines serving in the Individual Ready Reserve.
Col. Guy Stratton of the Marine Corps Manpower and Reserve Office said the decision to activate the IRR is "judicious and prudent ... at a time of war and national emergency."
Stratton said he estimates there is a current shortfall of about 1,200 Marines needed to fill positions in upcoming unit deployments.
IRR Marines can still volunteer, but the Marine Corps will now supplement the number of volunteers by involuntarily activating as many as 2,500 former Marines.
Marine briefers emphasize that this number is merely a top-scale figure gleaned from recent historical averages, and that only "a relatively small number will be selected" from the available pool.
Positions that need to be filled include communications, intelligence, engineers, truck drivers and military police. It is likely, however, that the majority of the positions will be in the infantry.
It is the first time the IRR has been activated since the start of the ground war in Iraq when more than 2,600 were called back to active duty. This time around, the authorization allowing the IRR's activation is open-ended, so from now on as many as 2,500 recent former Marines a year can expect to be called back to active duty in the Centcom area of operation, which includes Iraq and Afghanistan.
Military enlistments are for a total of eight years of combined service in both active duty and the Individual Ready Reserve. When a service member leaves active duty, it is with the understanding that the possibility exists that he or she could be recalled to active duty as part of the Individual Ready Reserve for the remainder of the enlistment contract.
Activations of the Individual Ready Reserve are fairly rare, so most servicemen think it unlikely they'll be called back.
The first notifications will be mailed in coming months, and the first IRR Marines should begin reporting for duty in the spring and summer of 2007.
They'll have five months from when they receive their notification to get their affairs in order before reporting to duty. They can also use that time to apply for an exemption, get a deferment or seek a delay of the recall order.
In an effort to prevent the recall of former Marines who have recently served combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Marine Corps will exempt Individual Ready Reservists who are in their first or last of year of IRR status, as well as those who returned to active duty since Sept. 11, 2001. That means those recalled to duty will come from the 35,000 Individual Ready Reservists who don't meet that criteria.
In early 2004, the Army was authorized to call up as many as 6,500 service members from the Individual Ready Reserve. Since then, 10,000 have returned to duty and 5,000 are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
There are currently about 175,000 Marines on active duty, and of the approximately 24,000 who serve in the Centcom area of responsibility, 2,600 of those are Marine Reservists.
The Marine Corps currently has 1,366 Individual Ready Reservists on active duty..