Digging deeper for help in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army is recalling to active duty about 5,600 people who recently left military service and still have a reserve obligation.
Army officials said Tuesday that the involuntary call-ups, which had been expected, would begin in July and run through December. It is the first sizable activation of the Individual Ready Reserve since the 1991 Persian Gulf War, though several hundred people have voluntarily returned to service since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Unlike members of the National Guard and Reserve, individual reservists do not perform regularly scheduled training and receive no pay unless they are called up. The Army is focusing the recall on those who recently left the service and thus have the most up-to-date skills.
“This was inevitable when it became clear that we would have to maintain significant combat forces in Iraq for a period of years,” said Dan Goure, a military analyst at the Lexington Institute, a think tank.
The Army is so stretched for personnel that in April it broke a promise to some active-duty units that they would not have to serve more than 12 months in Iraq.
Army officials also announced that the service would reimburse up to 32,000 soldiers who paid for domestic flights to their homes while on leave from Iraq and Afghanistan last year.
The Army has been paying to bring soldiers back to selected airports in the U.S. for their leave, but until the middle of December made them pick up the costs of flying on to their destinations.
Soldiers who traveled last year between Sept. 25 and Dec. 18 can receive reimbursement for the costs of the domestic flights, officials said. The change in policy followed congressional action.
The Army expects to pay up to $19 million for these reimbursements, officials said.