Sunday, April 09, 2006

'Backdoor Draft,' Cont'd
'Backdoor Draft,' Cont'd
Michelle Pilecki

The followup, unfortunately, is not that anyone in the traditional media is picking up on the story of how the Army plans to turns the Individual Ready Reserve into "a force which resembles a personnel pool for the Active Reserve Component." But I've had a lot of response, especially from service members with links to other sites like The Command TOC (which has a devoted link to IRR info) and Military Injustice, so that more people can learn about the IRR and how it's been disrupting lives.

When the IRR spigot got turned on for the Iraq war, such newspaper stories were more common, like this one in my local newspaper, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, about a local steelworker, veteran and father of three, threatened with arrest for "desertion" three years after his honorable discharge if he didn't report for active duty.

The paper trail is fairly straightforward on this one. [Frederick] Pistorius joined the Marine Corps in 1993. When he left the corps, he had a reserve obligation that expired June 25, 2000. The pool into which he would have gone is called the Individual Ready Reserve -- essentially former military available for service in times of emergency. After a few months of knocking around for work, Pistorius decided to go back into the military, get more training in his specialty -- cook -- and complete his reserve obligation with full-time duty. The Marines weren't taking back departed members who'd been out for a year, so, in 1998, he joined the Army, signing a three-year contract.

Pistorius was honorably discharged from the Army in July 20, 2001. His certificate of release attests to his accomplishments.... The upper corner is the spot in which the military lists a departing member's reserve obligation, the amount of time discharged soldiers, sailors and Marines remain subject to recall. For Pistorius, the boxes contain a succession of zeroes.

Because he was discharged well after his prior reserve obligation had passed, the Army laid no further claim to him, until someone in St. Louis ignored those zeroes and went hunting for a fresh body to fill a manpower shortage that grows more painful with every Iraqi sunset.

Fearful of messing up his record, Pistorius left his family and job, and reported for "duty" with other middle-aged vets who also weren't exactly "ready" for military life.

One man arrived with a hospital identification band still on his wrist. He'd just had knee surgery. One 48-year-old from Alabama had a hip replacement and fused vertebrae in his back.

"He showed them the documents, but they still made him come down to be examined by their doctors," Pistorius said. Pistorius spoke of a man called back from upstate New York.

"He had no teeth and he had arthritis in his leg," he said.

It took a while to straighten out the mess. At one point, Pistorius was told "that his big problem was showing up. So many people had either moved or ignored their orders to report that the Army was loath to part with a reasonably healthy one that had." After a few weeks he was sent home for medical reasons, but told he was "still subject to reserve obligation."

The Pistorius family, with its three children, ages 6, 5 and 2, is now trying to figure out what to do without a month's wages. "I just put everything off," [his wife] Wendy Pistorius said. "I paid only the bills I absolutely had to."

The Army took back the family separation allowance he was given when called to Camp McGrady. Frederick Pistorius is working a swing shift at the local tube plant and trying to figure out if the Army still considers him a reservist and if he's going to get another letter from St. Louis.