Army, VA muster Soldiers for readiness in D.C. area
May 14, 2011
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, May 15, 2011) -- About 300 Individual Ready Reserve Soldiers, as part of their eight-year military service obligation, were ordered to attend a readiness muster May 14.
The muster was conducted by the U.S. Army Human Resources Command with support from the U.S. Army Reserve Command and the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Army has partnered with the VA since 2009 in an effort to raise the visibility of VA benefits and services to Individual Ready Reserve, or IRR, Soldiers.
The one-day event consisted of readiness and personnel accountability tasks such as an orientation to the Reserve, records review, security clearance updates, medical and dental screening, identification card issue, presentation of training and unit opportunities and exit surveys.
Each IRR Soldier was issued orders and will be paid $215 for successfully completing the muster.
At the briefing before the Soldiers began visiting the muster stations, Brig. Gen. Marcia M. Anderson, deputy commanding general, U.S. Army Human Resources Command, had a few words of wisdom to impart.
"I heard of a young Soldier who was diagnosed with colon cancer," she said. "He had failed to sign up for VA so he could have health benefits to care of him while he was ill. So I would certainly encourage you to make that one of your stops today. You might be able to run a marathon today, but you never know what tomorrow will hold."
"If you're looking for a job or you may not like your current job, it wouldn't hurt to talk to some of those folks who could help you out with those benefits," Anderson said.
At the career counseling station, Sgt. 1st Class James Mines served as one of many who could help Soldiers with employment information.
One of the first to approach him was Sgt. Amanda Rachidi, who spent six years in the Reserves. She returned from a deployment to Afghanistan in August 2010. She recently separated from the Army and entered the IRR. Now she will move to Germany to be with her husband, who has taken a job there.
Because Soldiers serving in the IRR are not inactive, there are many opportunities available to continue their military careers. They can apply for active duty assignments, obtain professional development training, and get promoted. They are also subject to involuntary mobilization.
Mines helped Rachidi understand her options.
"I informed her of the units over there and can try to get her into one of them, if she wants," he said.
At the briefing, Maj. Gen. William D. R. Waff, commanding general of the 99th Regional Support Command, drove home some other major benefits he didn't want the men and women missing out on. Many of those Soldiers have deployed one, two, three or even four times.
"As soon as you come off active duty or refresh your Reserve, you're eligible for five years of free VA health care," Waff said. "So if this is the first time you heard it, and you're running that clock out, please make sure you sign up today, because that is free for five years, after you come off of active duty. The VA is very serious about that, and it's truly a gift that will just go on sitting and waiting, if you're not using it."
Waff also told the Soldiers that if they're interested in a nursing or medical career as a civilian, active-duty Soldier, or as a reservist, someone is available to make it happen.
He also said for those with an undergraduate degree who would like to upgrade to a masters, the Army opened up ROTC two years ago to pay for this.
"Today is all about honoring your service," said Waff.
All Soldiers had to go through at least five stations on the readiness muster checklist.
Included among those were a medical station where Soldiers could do a personal health assessment, labs, hearing and dental; a Veterans Affairs station; an ID card and DEERS station; a career counselor station; a personnel station; a chaplain station; and a career manager station.
Getting ready to go through her second muster was Sgt. Gabriel Malone.
"I got back from Korea last February and transferred to IRR," Malone said, while holding her son, Dyani. "Now I'm looking forward to learning all about my benefits and the load of paperwork I'll have to fill out."
Over the past three years, the Army has continued to change the format of musters to provide more personal services to the Soldier, as well as opportunities to continue service with the federal government.
Master Sgt. Hector Hunt sat down to get his blood drawn by Shelly Moouy of Comprehensive Nursing Services.
"I got back from deployment in 2005 and this is my first time at muster," Hunt said. "I've got six stations to visit to complete my day."
Getting a panoramic x-ray of his teeth and sinuses was Chief Warrant Officer 2 James Helms.
"I've been in and out of active duty for the past 13 years," Helms said. "This is my first muster, too."
His last deployment was with a civilian agency to Afghanistan over a year ago.
Following the briefing, the Army joined the Marines for the 5th Annual Welcome Home Celebration, where more than 1,000 returning combat veterans, active-duty service personnel and their family members received valuable health care and benefits information, a free lunch, and a whole day of family-friendly entertainment.
Also on hand were representatives from 12 prospective employers. Included among those were the D.C. Department of Employment, Department of Labor, Secret Service and the Virginia Employment Commission. Seven colleges were also represented at the muster, as were five veteran's organizations, and 14 veteran's services organizations.
Also represented were the American Red Cross, Army Wounded Warrior program, Military Children's Education Coalition and Tricare.
Mustering is part of the readiness screening operations the U.S. Army began in 2007 to optimize the operational and strategic value of the IRR.
The main purpose of musters is to sustain the individual readiness levels of IRR Soldiers by assuring their administrative and medical data is current, and to provide them information on the benefits and resources available to them in the Army Reserve
A total of 20 readiness musters will be conducted for about 4,000 IRR Soldiers across the United States between this year through August.
The first muster this year was conducted at the VA Health Care Facility in Orlando, Fla., Jan. 22. The other muster sites at VA facilities are Tampa, Fla.; New York City, N.Y.; Tacoma, Wash.; Temple, Texas; Boston, Mass.; Fayetteville, N.C.; Denver, Colo.; Phoenix, Ariz.; Long Beach, Calif.; Nashville, Tenn.; Vancouver, Wash.; Chicago, Ill.; Washington, D.C.; and Ann Arbor, Mich.
The remaining readiness musters will be conducted at Army Reserve Training Centers in Houston, Texas; Atlanta, Ga.; Philadelphia, Pa.; Minneapolis, Minn.; and Dallas, Texas.
The Army conducts three different types of musters, including personnel accountability musters, unit visit musters, and readiness musters.
"The muster program gives us the chance to collect required information from our IRR Soldiers, but it also gives them a chance to learn about the services and benefits available to them," said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Robert Cole, in a press release.
Cole is the supervising officer for the IRR muster program, U.S. Army Human Resources Command.
"A lot of opportunities can open up for them through either more active IRR participation, membership in a Reserve unit, or volunteering to mobilize in support of Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation (New Dawn)," Cole said.