The standard service obligation for American Army soldiers is eight years. Those choosing a shorter term of active service are actually still on the books in the Inactive Ready Reserve (IRR). Upon reaching the eight year mark, enlisted soldiers are automatically dropped from the rolls unless a conscious choice is made to stay with the Army. Officers, on the other hand, remain in the IRR unless they physically resigned their commissions, reached retirement age or died. On 16 July 2005, the undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, David Chu, changed that policy so that officers were also automatically released from the IRR.
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The decision to make this policy stemmed largely because of problems the Army faced in recalling its officers. Many sought deferments or delayed their reporting leading the Army to begin declaring them AWOL. Many of the recalled officers did not even realize they were still in the IRR, believing their commitments had expired. Even then, there are cases such as CPT Jonathan O’Reilly who served an additional two years after the Army continued to deny his resignation.
For reference, the standards of the IRR are documented in Army Regulation 135-91 (pdf). Despite the alleged update to the policy regarding officers, the most recent edition of this document is dated 1 February 2005. Looking at Table 2-1 and Table 2-2, the verbiage describing the participation requirements between officers and enlisted soldiers both indicate "until 8th anniversary" of appointment or enlistment respectively. Section 5-2© of the regulation outlines that IRR discharges will be in accordance with the Enlisted Administrative Separations standards documented in Army Regulation 135-178 (pdf). There is no mention of officer discharge in this regulation.
This raises some questions:
- Where is it documented that officers are not released from the IRR without an approved resignation of commission?
- Did David Chu’s update really happen?
- Should officers be held to a different standard of retention than enlisted soldiers?
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