IRR Soldiers muster in Illinois
April 20, 2010
ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. (April 19, 2010) -- At least one of the 138 Individual Ready Reserve Soldiers who received an unexpected invitation in the mail for an IRR Muster on April 10-11 thought "Holy Cow! I'm going to be deployed."
Sgt. Angelica McNair, from Oswego, Ill., left the Army Reserve in December 2009 to start a family. McNair had been deployed to Kuwait in 2006 with the 336th Transportation Group based at Fort Sheridan, Ill.
The majority of the Soldiers she came in contact with while deployed were recalled IRR Soldiers.
"So that immediately stuck out in my head on everyone that was IRR. So I just thought this is their [the Army's] way of finding out who is deployable and who isn't. And they are going to figure out that I am."
Urban legends have been known to surround the intent of IRR musters. Some of those legends saw Soldiers attending being given deployment orders and plane tickets on the same day.
The Army still considers IRR Soldiers to be highly-trained assets, U.S. Army Human Resources Command officials said. IRR Soldiers have already served in an active-duty or Army Reserve status and are fulfilling the rest of their military service obligation in their civilian community. Every Soldier who joins the Army has a legal obligation of not less than six and not more than eight years.
HRC handles the muster program and all IRR Soldiers. The command started conducting musters in 2007. In 2010, HRC will validate nearly 36,000 IRR Soldiers. The initial musters focused on certifying and making sure all attending Soldiers' personnel records and medical screenings were validated for mobilization readiness.
During early musters, Lt. Col. Craig Smith, chief of plans for HRC, said they were met with a lot of Soldiers' concerns and the muster evolved over time not only to be a mission of validation, but also outreach.
"What we found is you can't with a good conscious go out and ask the Soldier how they are doing and find out they are not doing real well in a lot of different areas. It gave us the inspiration to start partnering with agencies that could address the concerns the Soldiers had," Smith said.
One way the outreach piece plays into the musters is through attending vendors and subject- matter experts that can answer questions and provide information on benefits that are either new or were missed during the Soldiers' demobilization.
IRR Soldiers now have the opportunity to meet with representatives from Employee Partnership Relations and Civilian Personnel Advisory Center's for civilian and federal job opportunities. Other representatives at the Illinois muster included those from the Defense Commissary Agency, Army and Air Force Exchange Service, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, and Military One Source.
"Part of the reason why we are here is to make sure that all returning servicemembers that are participating in the IRR musters are aware the VA is here with them as a veteran and if they return to active duty, we are here with them when they get back as well," said Ivy Lloyd, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom program manager for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Brig. Gen. Leslie A. Purser, deputy chief of the Army Reserve, said she observed that it was obvious many of the Soldiers didn't want to be at the muster.
"But once they walked around and saw all the opportunities that were available to them, you can tell there was more pep in their steps and smiles," Purser said.
She also said as the day went by, they could tell that the IRR Muster support team wasn't going to slam a door and deploy them on the spot.
Pfc. Antonio S. Villa from Hammond, Ind., was a supply specialist on active duty for three years and currently has been IRR for two years. Villa said he's been thinking about coming back into the military, but as an Army Reserve Soldier. He said his obstacle is that his girlfriend doesn't want him to rejoin.
"She's worried about me deploying again," he said. If Villa joins, he would have a two-year mobilization deferment from coming out of the IRR into the active Reserves.
Smith said the 88th Regional Support Command developed a program that Smith wants replicated by other RSCs at musters. The program involves reviewing the list of all attending Soldiers and their paperwork to see if they were awarded Welcome Home Warrior Citizen Awards.
Brig. Gen. William D.R. "Razz" Waff, deputy commanding general of U.S. Army Human Resources Command, said the musters also come with major savings for the Army.
Waff and other HRC officials said for every Soldier that leaves the IRR and joins a Reserve unit, the Army saves about $64,000 per Soldier. This dollar amount includes training the Soldier has already achieved, Army recruiting advertising costs, getting the Soldier to the Military Entrance Processing Station and to their first unit after Advanced Individual Training.
Since its first muster, the Army has been reducing the "Holy Cow" moments to a quick day of personnel validation, medical screening and exposure of benefits that could improve the Soldiers' quality of life in the Reserve, or simply the remainder of their MSO in the IRR.
(Sgt 1st Class Chris Farley serves with the 88th Regional Support Command Public Affairs Office.)