By ROBERT BURNS
AP Military Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) For the first time in more than a decade, the Army is forcing thousands of former soldiers back into uniform, a reflection of the strain on the service of long campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Army officials on Wednesday announced that 5,674 former soldiers mostly people who recently left the service and have up-to-date skills in military policing, engineering, logistics, medicine or transportation will be assigned to National Guard and Reserve units that are scheduled to deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan. The first notifications are to be received July 6.
They will be put on active duty for a minimum of 12 months and mostly likely for 18 months. The Pentagon's policy is to not keep troops in Iraq or Afghanistan for more than 12 months.
Of the 5,674 retired and discharged soldiers who are being recalled to active duty, 65 are from Mississippi, Army officials said Wednesday.
Robert Smiley, the Army secretary's principal aide on troop training and mobilization, told a Pentagon news conference that more former soldiers, in addition to the 5,674, are likely to get called up next year. He said he could not estimate the number but would not rule out that it would be thousands.
Col. Debra A. Cook, commander of the Army Human Resources Command, told reporters that although former soldiers in the reserve pool known as the Individual Ready Reserve are required to verify by mail every year that they are physically fit, many will be surprised to get called for Iraq duty.
“There's going to be soldiers who, yes, will be shocked,” she said.
The Army did not immediately offer a state-by-state breakdown, but Raymond Robinson Jr., a senior personnel official at Army headquarters in the Pentagon, said many are from California and Texas.
People in the Individual Ready Reserve are distinct from the National Guard and Reserve because they do not perform regularly scheduled training and are not paid as reservists, but they are eligible to be recalled in an emergency because their active duty hitches did not complete the service obligation in their enlistment contracts.
It is the first sizable activation of the Individual Ready Reserve since the 1991 Gulf War, though several hundred people have voluntarily returned to service since the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.