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843 Don’t Heed the Call to Duty

From Associated Press

More than 800 former soldiers have failed to comply with Army orders to get back in uniform and report for duty in Iraq or Afghanistan, the Army said Friday. That is more than a third of the total who were told to report to a mobilization station by Oct. 17.

The number stood at 622 three weeks ago, amid talk that any who refused to report for duty could be declared absent without leave. Refusing to report for duty normally would lead to AWOL charges, but the Army is trying to resolve these cases quietly.

In all, 4,166 members of the Individual Ready Reserve have received mobilization orders since July 6. Of these, 2,288 were to have reported by Oct. 17. The others are to report in coming weeks and months.

Of those due to have reported by now, 1,445 have done so, but 843 have neither reported nor asked for a delay or exemption. That no-show rate of 37% is roughly in line with the one-third rate the Army had forecast when it began the mobilization to fill positions in regular and reserve units. By comparison, the no-show total of 622 three weeks ago equated to a 35% rate.

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Of the 843, the Army has had follow-up contact with 383 and is seeking to resolve their cases, according to figures made public Friday. For the 460 others, “we are still working to establish positive contact,” the Army said. Some might not have received the mailed orders.

Members of the Individual Ready Reserve, or IRR, are rarely called to active duty. The last time was 1990, when nearly 20,000 were mobilized. IRR members are people who were honorably discharged after finishing their active-duty tours, usually four to six years, but remained in the IRR for the rest of the eight-year commitment. They are separate from the reserve troops who are more routinely mobilized -- the National Guard and Reserve.

The Army anticipated, based on experience, that about a third of the IRR people it called up would be disqualified for medical or other reasons. The trend so far bears that out.

The Marine Corps, meanwhile, said Friday that a Marine killed in western Iraq this week, Sgt. Douglas E. Bascom, 25, of Colorado Springs, Colo., was a member of the Individual Ready Reserve. He was the first such Marine to die in Iraq, according to Gunnery Sgt. Kristine Scharber, a Marine Corps spokeswoman at the Pentagon.

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About 400 IRR Marines are deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Shane Darbonne, a spokesman for the Marine Corps Mobilization Command.

Army officials said they were uncertain whether any of their Individual Ready Reserve members had been killed in Iraq.

When the American invading force toppled Baghdad in April 2003, the Army thought it would be sending most of its soldiers home within months. Instead, it has kept 100,000 or more there ever since.


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