Resisting Individual Ready Reserve (IRR)
Courage to Resist. February 3, 2009 [PDF leaflet]
“If you get recalled my best advice is to follow your heart. Personally, I would not report.”
–Former IRR trainer (anonymous)
The Individual Ready Reserve (IRR), sometimes called the Inactive
Ready Reserve, is composed of former military personnel who still have
time remaining on their enlistment agreements but have returned to
civilian life. They are eligible to be called up in "states of
Despite the recent inauguration of an “anti-war” president, the Army
is currently undertaking the largest IRR recall since 2004. Over the
last seven years however, thousands of IRR soldiers and Marines have
questioned this "emergency" and have simply refused and ignored
involuntary activation—without any real consequences.
The most common military enlistment is four years active or reserve
duty, followed by an additional four years inactive. These “inactive”
years are explained to enlistees as just that, “inactive”—just keep
your uniforms, military ID card, and notify the military of address
The current emergency that allows the Army and Marines to recall IRR
members is the open-ended “Global War on Terror” that includes the
occupation of both Iraq and Afghanistan. Many enlistees do not fully
realize that most enlistments actually cover eight years of their life.
Resisting involuntary activation
Benjamin "Benji" Lewis
“The question for IRR members is whether
or not they should leave their new civilian lives behind so soon after
being discharged to fight in illegal aggressions and occupation. The
benefit is certainly not for veterans who, if they have not already
been so, stand only to get wounded, killed or sustain psychological
trauma in the form of PTSD. I encourage all IRR service members to
start questioning what they are being told by a military system that
will tell them anything to fill its quotas.”
–Benjamin “Benji” Lewis, Marine IRR member facing June 2009 recall
Members of the IRR are not under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) until they report for the Army’s evaluation for activation. Marines may receive orders during periodic musters, sometimes without prior warning.
Since IRR members are not subject to the UCMJ, the military has no formal jurisdiction to take action against IRR individuals if they do not voluntarily report—and there are no corresponding civilian laws requiring IRR individuals to report.
If an IRR member does report—even if only to apply for a waiver from
activation—they can again be punished under the UCMJ for being absent
without leave and unauthorized absence (AWOL/UA), missing movement,
conduct unbecoming, etc. if they later decide to resist.
IRR resisters (individuals who, for whatever reason, do not report) should expect to receive threatening letters and phone calls from the military for at least one year past their report date.
About a third of IRR members recalled do not initially report.
However, many will be intimidated into eventually doing so. The
military usually tells IRR members that a warrant for their arrest will
be issued if they do not report. While it’s true that thousands of
federal arrest warrants are issued annually for AWOL/UA active duty and
reservists, this is simply not true for IRR resisters.
“I am refusing to go. I was honorably
discharged in May 2007. I served a tour in Afghanistan and one in Iraq.
We need to get this information out there that veterans like me have a
–IRR resister (anonymous)
Failure to contact
Thousands of IRR members have successfully refused involuntary
recall in the last few years. They have done so by not reporting for
activation and passively ignoring the military.
For example, they refuse to sign for certified letters and they do
not take phone calls unless from a recognized caller. Many change their
phone number, or at least their outgoing phone message to not include
their name—all for “plausible deniability”. If contacted by the
military, family members of the IRR individual often explain, “That
person cannot be reached here, please do not call again. Good bye.”
If the military can’t contact an IRR individual, they file them away
as a “failure to contact.” Usually, at the end the enlistment
agreement, the resister will receive an honorable discharge from the
IRR—but it really doesn’t matter.
Types of discharge from the IRR
If the military believes that a no-show is due to something other
than a “failure to contact”, the military is more likely to eventually
discharge the individual under a “General” or “Other Than Honorable”
classification from the IRR. This is more likely to occur to
individuals who “make contact” with the military via phone or letters,
but do not report—including individuals who publicly refuse IRR recall.
The type of discharge one receives from the IRR has absolutely no
impact on the individual’s honorable discharge from active duty. One’s GI Bill education benefits, VA medical benefits, and DD-214 remain unaffected.
A “bad” discharge from the IRR may negatively impact an individual
during an in-depth background check. These are done for job applicants
applying for positions with the FBI, CIA, Homeland Security, etc.
Requesting an exemption from activation
“Our mission was to receive, process, and
retrain IRR soldiers who reported for duty. It was a nightmare. Many
IRR soldiers no longer had their uniform issue and had to buy a new
issue at a cost of several hundred dollars. The IRR soldiers were
restricted to training areas and billets…. They were not too thrilled.”
–Career military veteran and former IRR trainer (anonymous)
Upon call up, individuals are usually screened for medical and
“personal status” in order to qualify or disqualify them for
activation. About 50% of those that report request a deferment or
exemption. Many receive activation delays, and about 50% of those that
request an exemption get it.
IRR members most likely to receive exemptions include those with
medical disabilities rated at 30% or more by the Veterans
Administration (or a claim pending for the same that is judged by the
IRR mobilization authority as “likely to succeed”). For these cases, it
is sometimes possible to receive an exemption without reporting.
Applying for an exemption usually means reporting for the
evaluation, and that means real repercussions if an individual resists
later. Whether or not to take the chance on an exemption is a huge
Courage to resist unjust war
“I served in the Army as a
Photojournalist until being honorably discharged last summer after over
four years of service in Afghanistan, Japan, Europe and the
Philippines…. I received a letter from the Army ordering my return to
active duty, for the purpose of mobilization for Operation Iraqi
Freedom…. This occupation is unconstitutional and illegal and I hereby
lawfully refuse to participate.”
—Matthis Chiroux, outspoken recall resister currently contesting on principle his “General” discharge from the IRR
Courage to Resist is unaware of any IRR resister who has faced legal
consequences or a loss of benefits. That doesn't mean it is impossible
for any particular case to be a first. However, it would seem that the
most likely “worst case situation” is that a resister could somehow be
compelled to report for activation after initially refusing. The
military is more interested in deploying NCO’s (non-commissioned
officers) than taking on questionable legal cases.
Soldiers and Marines even face aggressive and misleading recruitment
tactics towards the end of their enlistments. Currently, the threat of
an IRR recall is one of the most effective pitches. It goes something
like this: “If you leave now, we’ll just recall you after you settle
into civilian life. Reenlist to know who you’ll be serving with and get
that bonus you deserve.”
One might expect a disclaimer here for IRR individuals to consult
with an attorney before making decisions. The problem is that some
resisters pay thousands in legal fees to lawyers with good-looking
websites for little more than help assembling an exemption package.
- If you decide that you require legal representation, we suggest contacting the National Lawyers Guild Military Law Task Force at www.nlgmltf.org or 619-463-2369 for a referral.
- Many IRR resisters are members of Iraq Veterans Against the War—www.ivaw.org or 215-241-7123.
- For general information about getting out of the military, contact the GI Rights Hotline at 877-447-4487.
This overview is based on Courage to Resist’s direct experience with
dozens of IRR resisters, GI rights counselors across the country, and
civilian lawyers specializing in military defense. This information may
change. Updates can be found at www.couragetoresist.org/irr
"By refusing activation, I refused to
participate in wars that serve the purposes of furthering the careers
of politicians and high-ranking officers…. The military is a force that
rules through fear of retribution for disobeying its will. In reality,
more than a third of IRRs simply refuse to report to duty."
—Brandon Neely, former Army MP, Iraq veteran, recall resister eventually discharged “honorably” from the IRR
Courage to Resist wants to hear from soldiers and Marines with
experiences regarding the Individual Ready Reserve since 2001 in order
to improve this overview. Be sure to note if we may publish quotes from
you and if we may use your name when doing so.
Courage to Resist - www.couragetoresist.org - 510.488.3559
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