200 Md. reservists may receive call-up

Stretched thin overseas, Army to tap soldiers of Individual Ready Reserve

July 01, 2004|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON - About 200 Marylanders could be among the 5,600 members of a little-used Army Reserve organization who will be called to active duty for as long as two years to support operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Army officials said.

The soldiers are from the Individual Ready Reserve, a pool of about 111,000 soldiers who do not train, receive pay or belong to any unit. Those being called up have needed military skills such as truck drivers, mechanics, combat engineers and logisticians. They will be used to fill in with Army Reserve and National Guard support units.

No names were released. The reservists will begin receiving notices July 6 and serve on active duty for up to two years, including one year in Iraq or Afghanistan, officials said.

While more than 200 of the reservists could eventually be called from Maryland, officials cautioned that they were still determining the exact number of reservists from each state.

Robert H. Smiley of the Army's Office of Manpower and Reserve Affairs told reporters at the Pentagon that more soldiers from the Individual Ready Reserve will likely be tapped for deployments beginning next year. He said thousands more could be called to active duty.

It is unusual to call up members of the Individual Ready Reserve - soldiers who served on active or reserve duty and still have time left on their eight-year service commitments.

"The all-volunteer Army is entering one of the most demanding periods in its modern history," the Army said in a news release.

Democrats on Capitol Hill seized on the announcement to press for measures that would add up to 20,000 soldiers to the 480,000 active-duty Army or bring back the military draft.

"A draft already exists for those currently serving and subject to stop-loss orders and involuntary extensions," said Rep. Charles B. Rangel, a New York Democrat, who is calling for a return to conscription 31 years after the start of the all-volunteer force. "Now, the Bush administration is resorting to the absolute worst kind of draft. It is forcing those people who have already honorably served and been discharged back into the service."

Pentagon officials have said there is no need for a draft and already have begun efforts to temporarily increase the size of the Army by 30,000 soldiers through increased recruitment and "stop loss," meaning that soldiers ready to retire or end their enlistments must remain on duty for several more months.

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