Phony Disengagement, Secret Escalation

While the Pentagon says it plans to scale back the U.S. occupation in Iraq, it’s quietly doing just the opposite, high-level internal e-mails reveal.

It has launched a massive nationwide call-up of former service members across the country who have not fully completed their eight-year contractual obligation to the US Army. They are known collectively as the Individual Ready Reserves, or IRR, and they number more than 118,000.

It’s one of the last options the military has before drafting civilians. And the move comes on top of rumors the Pentagon plans to redeploy to Iraq some 4,000 US troops stationed in South Korea.

Call-ups for IRR members begin today, according to high-level Army e-mails I’ve obtained. Those who don’t report could face AWOL or desertion charges.

Ex-soldiers with time remaining on their contracts “are being sought for activation and assignment to a deploying OIF [Operation Iraqi Freedom]/OEF [Operation Enduring Freedom] unit,” says Command Sgt. Maj. Luis A. Garcia of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division in a May 13 e-mail to garrison sergeants major, under the heading: “IRR Activations: IMPORTANT!”

“Call-ups will begin 18 May. The Army is looking for 8,000 soldiers to volunteer at first. After 18 May, separated soldiers may be located and called up INVOLUNTARILY,” his e-mail emphasizes. “These people will be activated and ordered to report to any ARNG [Army National Guard] or USAR [US Army Reserve] unit that needs them.”

Garcia adds: “Those that fail to report could face AWOL or desertion charges. This is serious business.”

He cites a Pentagon-level e-mail he received two days earlier from an official at the US Army Human Resources Command headquartered in Alexandria, Va.

In that May 11 e-mail, Sgt. Maj. Antimo Bruno refers to a recent video teleconference conducted by Lt. Gen. James R. Hemley, commander of the US Army Reserve, in which the commander outlined the call-up plan for IRR members.

“Soldiers assigned to the IRR will start to be activated in support of missions in Iraq, Afghanistan and other locations,” explains Bruno, who works in the transition branch of the Army Human Resources Command here.

“The IRR will still be an option for soldiers exiting active duty, if that is what they desire to do,” he adds. “But with this new policy, the likelihood of the soldiers being mobilized from the IRR has been greatly increased.”

The new mobilization policy requires the authorization of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who has bridled in public at calls for more troops in Iraq.