At any given time, close to 95,000 soldiers choose to serve their country in the Individual Ready Reserve.
Operationally controlled by the U.S. Army Human Resources Command, the IRR consists of a pool of individual soldiers who have been trained through their service in the active forces or the Selected Reserve, and are available to be called upon to mobilize during times of conflict or national emergency.
They merit benefits such as retirement and may even attend training and military schools. The catch, as one IRR soldier puts it, is to "not stay sedentary."
"Being proactive is key," said Sgt. 1st Class Jessica McClary, U.S. Army Human Resources Command data management noncommissioned officer. "There are a lot of opportunities that soldiers can, and should take advantage of while they're in the IRR."
McClary, who works as a nurse for a urology practice in Georgia, applied for and accepted her current assignment with HRC while assigned to the IRR.
"I love my civilian job but it weighs on you and there are times when I need to step back and take a break from the stress of it," McClary said. "The IRR lets take that break and still serve my country at the same time."
McClary, like others serving on tours from within the IRR, is earning points towards retirement.
"The key for them (IRR soldiers) to earn any benefits is to actively participate," said Janet Mason, U.S. Army Human Resources Command, IRR program manager.
Mason, who coordinates both internal and external to the Human Resources Command any issues relating to the IRR, said there is a tradeoff for the benefits soldiers receive from serving in the IRR.
"IRR doesn't mean Inactive Ready Reserve. It means Individual Ready Reserve," said Mason.
"There are very few requirements within the IRR, but those requirements that do exist are very important."
Soldiers serving in the IRR must notify HRC of any changes to their mailing address, marital status, number of dependents, civilian education and civilian employment. They must promptly answer all military correspondence.
They must also certify their medical readiness every year. Anything that impacts a soldier's medical readiness and prevents them from being immediately available for active military service, must be reported to HRC immediately.
Lastly, IRR soldiers may be directed to complete an in-person muster, known as a Personnel Accountabilty Muster, or electronically by virtual muster. A muster is a tool HRC uses to screen the IRR Soldier.
"We are mustering a group of Soldiers in Texas in late February and early March. In April, we plan to conduct a muster in the northeastern part of the country," Mason said. "That will affect about 10,500 soldiers total."
Soldiers that receive orders for a personnel accountability muster should call the number on their muster order and schedule an appointment with a career counselor at their local Army Reserve Center. During the appointment, the counselor will conduct an IRR orientation brief and discuss benefits and opportunities that may be available. Soldiers will also be paid a stipend for their attendance at an in-person muster.
"If soldiers don't receive orders for the personnel accountability muster, they can still satisfy the requirements of the program by going online and completing a virtual muster," Mason said. "They do that by going to the HRC web site at www.hrc.army.mil."
Mason said, "The bottom line is that there are plenty of ways out there for soldiers to serve their country; the IRR being just one of them. But you get out of it what you put into it."