posted by Jonathan Potts at
Sigh. Again every misses the point. The IRR has been a burr in the army's butt for more than a decade. In 1991, because of shoddy legislation, IRR couldn't even be activated until combat operations began in Kuwait (which kept DOD from recalling hundreds of recently discharged vets who were still on contract for military duty).For the uninformed, just because you've left active duty doesn't mean your service has ended. You're on the hook for eight years, generally. Let's say you do four active, you've still got four to fill. Most people elect to go into the "Ready Reserve," which means they don't have to be very ready, and they're not likely to have their spots reserved.For DOD, the problem has been: What if we need to call these people up? How are we going to find them? What if they've let their bodies go to hell? Or they've developed health problems? Or family troubles? An ongoing nightmare for all the branches annually is tracking down mostly young, male population that's recently left the service for their annual "show up for the check" day of IRR duty. Maybe LCpl Blowhard went to college and never checked back in with his IRR coordinator. Maybe Pvt Pyle turned gay. Maybe Capt. Wingbolt never paid his bills, got evicted and uses a cell phone.Quite honestly, I was amazed that only 36 percent of the initial IRR call up couldn't be located! I know you want to read into this the notion that guys are just deserting, but I have a feeling that only a very few will do that (and they do it in peacetime, too!). In the army and USAF, it's called going AWOL. In the USN/USMC, it's going UA.For a reservist, after a year of failing to report DOD shifts the UA to "desertion." Thousands of guys go UA or AWOL every year during peacetime. The vast majority are never prosecuted at the level of Court Martial. Instead, the accused agree to a unique military tradition called "Non Judicial Punishment."Just so you know, about 40,000 service-men and -women face a Court Martial (felony) every year. That's a very tiny sliver of the armed forces. In the tiniest branch, the U.S. Coast Guard, they court martial about 12 guys every year for UA and desertion. But, Anonymous Poster, in the wake of the war, aren't desertions and other crimes up?Well, Potts, no. Last year, the number of General Court Martial prosecutions dropped 12.6 percent in the Army, 3.7 percent in the USN/USMC and 37.8 percent in the USAF. Not only are people NOT deserting, they're also not getting into trouble. War kind of does that.Why are most personnel discharged for other than honorable reasons, Anonymous Poster?Well, Potts, I'll let you in on another secret -- DoD loses about 10 percent of its combat-arms personnel every year to pops on piss tests. That's the real war military lawyers fight every day. On the IRR front, here's some Congressional testimony before the war (see www.defenselink.mil/pubs/Sec746_111099.html): "The Summit concluded there is little return on investment for any program to conduct physical exams for the more than 450,000 members of the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR). The annual cost of ensuring that IRR members are examined as to physical condition at least every five years is approximately $2.3 million. This cost reflects approximately 10 percent of what the Department should be spending annually on physical exams for this population. However, DoD is able to provide only about 11,000 of the more than 100,000 required physical exams for IRR members each year. In this period of constrained resources, it would be far more cost-effective to conduct physical exams on these Reserve members at the time they are ordered to active duty."Please note that at any given time there are close to 450,000 men and women in the IRR. You try to keep track of them.
Doh. Everyone, not every.
Thanks for putting questions into my mouth.
That 30% missing figure is not that bad. From my understand of reserve call-ups, the military usually overcalls by 30-40% because they know that exemptions and medical hardships will be requested that range from the totally legit (Hey I just had a heart attack last week) to totally bogus (I have dust allegeries and there is a lot of dust in Iraq) to a lot more in between (what about that ACL reconstruction I had 2 years ago, does that render me physically incapable?)
There's nothing astounding about me being wrong--it happens all the time. But the fact that the two of you are in agreement has me wondering if I should start to peddle parkas in Hell.
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I don't blame you, J, because the USA Today report was very, very bad. This has been an issue at newspapers (and blogs) for nearly a generation. Some of the worst reporting in this country is done about the U.S. military. It's an institution few reporters, editors and photographers experience directly because it's an all-volunteer force, and few resources are devoted to covering it unless we're engaged in a war.Off the top of my head, I think probably only Jack Kelly at the Post-Gazette and Carl Prine at the Tribune-Review are the only former active duty guys I've met from the press, and they were both Marines.
By the way, J, the military blogs are going crazy over this:www.blackfive.net/main/2004/09/the_draft.html
I agree that fewer and fewer people have much knowledge of the military now that we've had an all-volunteer military for a generation. But I think reporters are capable of writing about things with which they don't have personal experience. I was never a teacher, but I'd like to think I was a pretty good education reporter. (Though others might disagree.) Should only former police officer cover the cops beat? Only lawyers cover the courts? Sure, there are a lot of bad reporters, and a lot of subjects that may not get the treatment they deserve. I'm not sure the military is unique in that regard.
But you went through school, right? You were socialized into a paradigm that allowed you to understand educational bureaucracies, standards, testing debates, etc.Reporters who cover religion often understand the basic tenets of the faiths, often having themselves gone through rigorous socialization in the denomination.Courts are ubiquitous in our culture as well, and most reporters, at some time in their lives, interact with the judicial system long before they pick up a pad and pencil (custody proceedings, child support payments, traffic tickets, probate, etc.).The military, however, is a very different experience since the end of the draft. Most reporters (who were overwhelmingly male) before the mid-1960s (when evading the draft became a full-time job) served in the armed forces. They had a certain working knowledge of the institution.Now, I fully believe reporters, public policy analysts, politians, etc., can study military-related issues with profundity often lacking from somebody who served two years in the draft Army three decades ago.No shit.The problem is that newspapers and the other various media do not make the effort to truly understand either the peacetime or wartime military. They send people who can't fathom combat to cover battles, people who are not adjusted physically or mentally to the rigors they will endure, not to mention the strange institution of warriors they will encounter when they arrive.Just as there have been very strange stories written or aired by the MSM over the past 17 months about Iraq (you can imagine how active the milblogs have been debunking them, including guys posting directly from Iraq), there also have been crazy pieces about the draft (USA Today being but one of them).I don't believe the MSM do this intentionally because of political bias. They do it because of sheer ignorance. You don't see these sorts of stories coming from people who actually cover the military (where are these stories in Army Times or Stars & Stripes? Where are the analyses on draft manpower needs from Brookings or Rand?), but from general assignment guys or the pack covering the campaigns.In sum, stenographers, not beat reporters.
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