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THE CONFLICT IN IRAQ

Emergency Reservists Slow to Heed Call

September 29, 2004|From Reuters

WASHINGTON — Thirty percent of former U.S. soldiers who have been called back to duty involuntarily to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan have failed to report on time, and eight have been declared AWOL, the Army said Tuesday.

The Individual Ready Reserve is a seldom-tapped personnel pool made up of 111,000 people who have completed their voluntary Army service and returned to civilian life but remain eligible to be mobilized in a national emergency. Many left active duty years ago.

The Army has mobilized 3,664 people from the ready reserve, but 1,085 have not reported to their assigned Army post on time, said Julia Collins, a spokeswoman for the Army Human Resources Command.

Eight of those ordered back to active duty have been listed as absent without leave, or AWOL, and could face military criminal charges as deserters, Collins said. They have been notified that they are being classified as AWOL and still refuse to report for duty, she said.

Six others had been listed as AWOL but agreed to report after being contacted, Collins said.

About 85% of those who did not show up on time have formally requested duty exemptions because of health issues or some other hardship, Collins said, but most requests are likely to be rejected. Most of the others have requested a delay in their reporting date.

"I expect a small percent to be approved for exemption," Collins said. "The cases are so varied. You've got medical. You've got financial hardship. You've got sole caretaker for children or parents."

The Army provides an automatic 30-day delay in the reporting date when someone applies for exemption or delay, Collins said. A total of 5,600 ready reserve members will be summoned by the end of the year.

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