WASHINGTON -- For the first time since Operation Desert Storm, the Army plans to announce this week an involuntary mobilization of thousands of troops from the Individual Ready Reserve, the latest signal that the service is struggling to bolster ranks stretched thin by the global war on terrorism.
The move, which Army officials say is expected to involve notifying roughly 6,500 soldiers about a possible deployment, is meant to fill holes in active and reserve units preparing to go to Iraq and Afghanistan this fall and early next year. In most cases, the Pentagon created those holes when it took from their units soldiers with critical skills in short supply -- such as civil affairs, intelligence, vehicle maintenance, and truck driving -- and shifted them to military units needed for more urgent deployments since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The Individual Ready Reserve, or IRR, is a pool of about 118,000 former soldiers who are not members of a specific reserve unit, yet who have unexpired obligations to complete their military service. In some cases, they are soldiers who received honorable discharges before their commitment was scheduled to end and are legally bound to fulfill their contract if the Pentagon requires their services. Several thousand of these soldiers are serving in Iraq, the majority of them volunteers.