For more than five months, Russell L. Shaffer Jr. dodged the bullet. But there it was Monday, a Mailgram from the U.S. Army telling him he had been called up from inactive reserve status and was due to report to Fort Knox, Ky. by Jan. 31. Shaffer, who lives in Glen Burnie, is one of about 20,000 members of the Army Individual Ready Reserves called up to active duty this week to meet specialized needs in the Persian Gulf war. In a separate order, the Army this week alerted members of the Headquarters Company of the 352nd Civil Affairs Command, a reserve unit based in Riverdale in Prince George's County, that they faced possible activation.
It is the first time since the Vietnam War that members of the Individual Ready Reserve have been ordered to active duty, and it is the largest such call-up since the Korean War, said Van D. Hipp, the Army's
deputy assistant secretary for reserve affairs. There are about 456,000 individual ready reservists in the country. About 1,700 members were called up during Vietnam, he said.
Shaffer, 21, just got out of the Army in August after a three-year stint. He was trained to repair the hulls of the Army's M-1 tanks, which will likely be heavily used on the front lines in event of a ground assault on Kuwait.
0$ "I was scared at first because I
was scared how my wife would feel about it," Shaffer said of the recall. "But she took it all right, so I don't feel scared about it."
Shaffer, like many enlisted personnel, signed up for three years of active duty and five years of inactive reserve status. Individual ready reservists such as Shaffer are not attached to a reserve unit and do not have to undergo any training during their reserve hitch.
SG Shaffer is on reserve, he said matter-of-factly, "in case there's a
war. And now there's a war."
Shaffer said he expects he will be shipped to the Middle East, based on a conversation he had with his old military boss at Fort Knox.
"I feel all right about it," Shaffer said. "You got to do what you got to do."
A Pentagon spokesman would not say how many Marylanders were called up from reserve status this week.
The Individual Ready Reserve has two components: people who
have completed the active-duty portion of their military commitment but are required to remain in the reserves for the remainder of their contract period, and former active-duty service members who volunteer to remain in the reserves beyond the contract period.
Hipp said the skills most needed were medical, truck drivers, mechanics, supply specialists and artillery personnel. Some are needed in the United States, some at U.S. bases in Europe and some in Saudi Arabia.