Involuntary recalled to the IRR: Get the Facts


no_irr_indivrdyresvssi_ipod_photo_01Involuntary recall to the IRR: Get the Facts

By Benji Lewis, Commentary by Major Robert L. Hanafin, U.S. Air Force-Retired

January 1, 2009 Marine Corporal Benji Lewis deployed to Iraq twice in 2004 and 2005 and was discharged honorably in 2007 with about two to three years remaining on his overall legal and technical commitment.

Corporal Lewis has been among thousands of veterans involuntarily [and voluntarily] recalled into the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) by the U.S. Marine Corps in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, activation that he and an increasing number of others have publicly refusing.

I’m not encouraging nor endorsing any veteran, especially our troops on active duty who are technically not veterans YET, to take the course Benji has taken but to focus attention on what I personally believe to be YES, a legal and technical means to maintain the readiness of our ground forces, but it is also an unethical, immoral, and shameful practice and excuse for avoiding THE DRAFT or our government seeking shared national commitment.





To those who VOLUNTARILY and PROUDLY decide to quietly or publicly fulfill your overall military commitment, I say GOOD ON YOU. You certainly earned the right to make that decision and no one but YOU can make such a decision. I can’t but RESPECT YOUR DECISION, hell I have no room to talk I volunteered for the All Volunteer Force when most folks my age were anxious to head out the door.

That said, if you are an Iraqi Freedom or Afghanistan Vet, paid your combat dues once much less two, three, or four deployments (or threat thereof to get you to reenlist) I say that you too have earned the right to question that IRR recall, however do it right, do it legally as possible, and just as you were not willing or told that you would have a six year (or more) active duty commitment, THIS TIME know what you are getting into THE CONSEQUENCES of having THE COURAGE TO RESIST STOP LOSS or INVOLUNTARY RECALL TO THE IRR.

Though I believe the motion picture STOP LOSS is a bit overblown on how aggressive local law enforcement and especially the Army and Marines are on wasting precious funding to track down and prosecute Veterans who resist (note that I highlight Veterans here not someone who has hit boot camp realized Oh, shit what have I gotten myself into, then decides the War ain’t his/her deal and books).

There are a few in the Pro-Peace community, especially Conscientious Objector advocates who may disagree with me on this, and I can only say that after questioning my war when I was much younger and deciding to make the military a career despite of the ability to QUESTION, well I may be left of center, but I’m not THAT liberal.

Robert L. Hanafin
Major, U.S. Air Force-Retired

Some facts about the IRR (don’t take my or Benji’s word for it check out DOD sources on the reality of the IRR both truth and myths as the Pentagon bean counters see them)

individualreadinessacu_01 The IRR is an inactive (as most Vets remember it back in the day STANDBY Reserve as opposed to Ready Reserve) group of service members who still have time remaining on their signing agreements and are eligible to call up during local state or national “states of emergency.” The Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) that I was once a member of defined a National State of Emergency as American citizens being in a war for survival of our nation.

In fact, way back in 2006 MOAA issued a statement saying that THE DRAFT was not needed because the Global War on Terror was not a national emergency or war for survival of the United States of America.

I can provide links to those statements and the panel conference in which THE DRAFT was debated by leaders within the right-wing think tank American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the Selective Service Agency (SSA), and retired and active duty senior military officers that had an influential input to Bush administration military and foreign affairs policies.

The current projected image of a so-called “state of emergency” that even America’s most senior military leaders admit does not exist IF the American people must be asked to share in the sacrifice via THE DRAFT is the open-ended Global War on Terror that includes the occupation of both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Put in laymen’s term moderates to far right of center want their cake and eat it too. That is more than a cliché, because those most passionate about sending so-called volunteers into harm’s way continue to want to do it on the CHEAP so to SPEAK. I don’t mean cheap recruits, for our military recruits today get handsome and attractive bonuses that could have made draft resistance during Vietnam non-existent had WE been offered the same monetary incentives to be patriotic.

One only need compare what privates were told to accept back in the day to what Privates are enticed with today to see that there is more than inflation in play here. Our Armed Forces in order to become an All Volunteer Force had to no shit MIX genuine patriotism with an increasingly handsome monetary carrot to get the adequate numbers of volunteers practically destroyed by the Bush 1 and Clinton administrations with the drawdown after the Gulf War and exploitation of our ground forces under Commander-in-Chief Bush 2.

This is not about Bush or Bush bashing, those days are gone but quick, now its Obama’s turn to get bashed from all sides, and in fact the GWOT is Obama’s war NOW. On his shift, because of continuing reenlistment shortfalls despite Army and Marine denials to the contrary, if there were not retention shortfalls (simply put the most experienced are getting fed up, wounded or killed in action), the Pentagon is finding it difficult to procure sufficient manpower in its efforts overseas.

9fa7e03ae7a05121cd51b110.l_400Thus the U.S. government is continuing under Obama to find it necessary to reactivate members of the standby reserve – the IRR to stave off its shortage of personnel. Thousands of Veterans, yes I’m talking about younger Vets here that have been in combat in harm’s way are now being faced with the decision to reactivate and forgo the lives they have built since their discharge.
 Benji Lewis made the conscientious (meaning though out not moral or ethical) decision to ignore his orders and is aggressively encouraging others in the IRR to make an informed decision on whether or not they should do the same. I’m endorsing the “informed decision” part of Benji’s decision.

Those who challenge my stand on this as a LIFER, and retired military officer to you I say SILENCE, because only Congress has the ultimate right to take my commission away or IF I decided to relinquish it, which I have no intention of doing because I took a moral and ethical oath as an officer that has turned into a mockery.

Put another way I’m not encouraging combat Veterans to choose this path, but upon informed decisions that obviously must be more informed than when you enlisted or got your commission, I am not discouraging you from this path either. JUST UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU ARE GETTING INTO FROM NOT ONLY AN IMMEDIATE VIEW POINT BUT IN THE LONG RUN.

Get the Facts – know the laws, and seek legal counsel.

The most important fact about this decision is that members of the IRR do not fall under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) until they report to the evaluation for activation. After being discharged from the military, Veterans are bound only by civilian laws, and there exists no civilian mandate that states must monitor and track the whereabouts of IRR members for the federal government. This means that the military has no formal judiciary measure for bringing criminal charges against an individual that ignores orders and fails to report once they are a VETERAN.

The movie Stop Loss has a line that in intended to get viewers who happen to be active duty members thinking about the consequences, and that line is, “No judge in the nation is going to go up against the Army on this.” Reality is that the nation and that includes judges are focused on THE ECONOMY not the Global War on Terror that they cannot relate to.

That said, it would be misleading to say that the Pentagon has no recourse to well GET YOU. Be clear on that, of course the military has certain forms of coercion and harassment that it utilizes to ‘prompt’ (arm twist) persons into reactivation, these are what I consider overblown in Stop Loss the movie, but make this point relatively clear. However, these threats have no legal grounds.

For example, if the military sends a VETERAN a letter that says to report for a court martial or a separations hearing, the military cannot actually hold a court martial or separations hearing unless that person reports for it. This means that a VET would have to volunteer to be court marshaled under the UCMJ. In the case of a separations hearing, a VET would have to agree to voluntarily participate, as in the well-known case of IRR resister and IVAW member, Matthis Chiroux.

If members of the IRR ignore all attempts by the military to contact them, through not signing certified letters, or answering their phone calls, then the most probable situation is either a general separation from the IRR citing ‘a failure to contact,’ [translation General under Honorable conditions] or, worst case scenario, an other-than-honorable discharge from the IRR. [Administrative Discharges come to mind].

VETERANS, and you have to be a VETERAN, get two discharges or DD-214s.

Major Hanafin has so many discharges (DD-214s) that I can’t keep track of them, however it is only two that matter to me, the VA, and even DOD both are Honorable Discharges from active duty. Keep in mind that I was Regular, placed in the Standby IRR during Vietnam, told to sit home a wait for assignment to a Army Reserve unit.

Well, I did and in the course of waiting I was assigned to a standby Army Reserve unit while attending Air Force ROTC, in fact there was an agreement between the Army Reserve and Air Force Reserve on who owned me until I got my commission – THE ARMY! I even received IRR orders promoting me to SSGT that didn’t mean a damn thing. I was never ordered to report anywhere, but that could have been because I was already actively involved in a military accession program during a time when the All Volunteer Force was an experiment.

What is important to understand, back in the day as now, is that a discharge from the IRR, in whatever capacity, does not affect a vet’s discharge from active duty. That means that at this time [CAUTION THIS IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE SHOULD THE OBAMA ADMIN RUN OUT OF BODIES FOR AFGHANISTAN] no one has incurred any loss of VA benefits or standing from an original active duty discharge.

That said, an other-than-honorable discharge from the IRR could, however, affect those that apply for a federal job requiring a national security background check, such as a position in the FBI, NSA or any of the military intelligence services. Major Hanafin served in the Air Force Intelligence career field and held clearance beyond Top Secret and had on two occasions to pass a [security not lifestyle] polygraph test. If I had a less than honorable IRR discharge (IRR) on file, I would have been denied a SECRET security clearance let alone anything higher and thus would have ended my career.

Of the facts surrounding the IRR, it is important to know that about thirty to forty percent of personnel fail to report. Unfortunately many do comply after the military uses scare tactics to get them to reactivate. About fifty percent file for medical or hardship exemption and about fifty percent of those get approved. Veterans with more than 30% rated VA disability are most likely to be granted waivers unless it is for PTSD then I’d be cautious.

It would behoove any young Veteran who has experienced the VA system to go on line and reapply or better yet upgrade your rating IF in fact your service-connected condition has worsened regardless what it is. Legally, unlike on active duty, Veterans can seek and use private physician and mental health professionals to document their condition within a timeframe after active duty. Most Veterans still in the IRR would most likely be within the window to file VA claims. The reality is that most service members in the IRR do not even have to file for exemption or waiver with the Pentagon if they simply fail to report.

From this point on Benji talks about why HE refused to reactivate, and my intent is to not go there, because that is a personal, ethical, moral, conscientious, and difficult decision process that impacts different Soldiers or Marines in diverse and complex ways, it impacts your family, your community, and your young lives. All I will say is that the family support network, both publicly and underground, needs to grow in which those youngsters with the courage to resist have a safe haven that makes it unnecessary to go to Mexico or Canada.

Keep in mind that if anyone supports or sympathizes with the plight of Soldiers or Marines of conscious and moral values you technically run the risk of harboring a fugitive from local, federal, and state laws should the Pentagon and U.S. government get serious about stamping out those Veterans who resist. We must make that safe haven as socially acceptable as the Underground Railroad illegal for its day became. We must make that safe haven as morally right as those gentiles with the courage to hide jews from the Holocaust.

What I do agree with Benji is that, “The question for IRR members is whether or not they should leave their new civilian lives behind so soon after being discharged to fight in illegal aggressions and occupation. The benefit is certainly not for Veterans who, if they have not already been so, stand only to get wounded, killed or sustain psychological trauma in the form of PTSD. I do not endorse nor encourage anyone to do anything that goes against their moral values, and there are those who ethically and morally see nothing wrong in what they do at GITMO, in busting down doors in Iraq or Afghanistan, hell that’s what they volunteered for and get paid to do. That’s their mission (ever changing but still their job).

However, I also join Benji in encouraging all IRR service members to start questioning what you are being told by a military system that will tell you anything to fill its quotas. As a retired officer, I would not take this stand if I did not have personal access to accurate data that there are other retired officers and enlisted lifers from WWII, Korea, and Vietnam who led by Colonel Bud Day launched a law suit against our government because military recruiters lied to them about free health care for life.
A growing number of active duty troops in Iraq are discovering that by challenging unlawful or questionable orders, they are actually saving lives.

As a retired officer, I will tell you that it is far easier to go with the flow in blind obedience than to be among the precious few who know when to draw the line even if it means their own death or ruining their lives. They are doing this by refusing to patrol hot streets where the only mission that can be accomplished is to be wounded or killed by an IED or pre-set ambush with no stated goal but ‘a presence.’ We owe it to active duty service members and Veterans to question what in the final analysis are wrongful or unlawful orders as IRR members.

Together we can deplete the manpower available for this war and force the U.S. to rotate its service member’s home where they belong or at the minimum provide adequate dwell time in the mean time, make Stop Loss and involuntary recall of IRR illegal or question the recall as false enlistments IF the recruit was not clearly briefed by military recruiters that he/she had more than a two or four year enlistment. We must allow the Iraqis to rebuild their nation without interference from biased U.S. policy makers and corporations. It is impossible to honor those fallen in an unjustifiable aggression by continuing to fill body bags.

The only other recourse our government leaders, regardless of political ideology, have is to try convincing the American people that WE are in a no shit “state of emergency” and the Global War on Terror is a fight for our very survival as a nation that requires THE DRAFT. Let us see a show of hands that our government has the courage needed to do that.

Fat change, those with courage to resist far outnumber those government leaders who would demand national burden sharing in their Global War on Terror that is not a state of emergency or fight for America’s survival. That is unless the Military Officers Association of American has changed its view on the GWOT and THE DRAFT. That BTW would not surprise me for desperation will encourage NEOCONs to do whatever it takes.

Before we last heard from, or saw, our Soldier way back in 2004, our military family was on distribution for emails that kept military family members informed. At that time, I was informed that the Battalion Commander of our child’s unit were doing everything humanly possible to keep their troops out of hot zones or even contact with the Iraqi people unless absolutely necessary.

My gut feeling is that was about five years ago, I would imagine that today just as I would if I were on active duty, I would go out of my way to ensure my people are not placed in a situation where they are among the last to be wounded or die for political mistakes made by those who refuse to be placed in harm’s way from get go or got a get out of THE DRAFT free card.

If doing so would be beyond my means then I as a field grade officer would have a very difficult choice to make between my career or the difference between right and wrong that will cost me the lives of those under my command. I honestly can’t say what I would do. The consequences of deciding in either direction have both value and waste that only a precious 0.1% of American citizens, let alone voters are exposed to. THAT IN INSELF IS A NATIONAL DISGRACE.

Robert L. Hanafin
Major, U.S. Air Force-Retired

I strongly recommend that BEFORE doing anything or making yor final decision at a minimum contact The Military Law Task Force that has a growing staff of lawyers across the nation who are members of the National Lawyers Guild that question the constitutional legality of the Global War on Terror, the misuse and abuse of the IRR, and Stop Loss.

These legal eagles should be able to give you the straight skinny on the plus and minuses of what you could be getting into. Something that military recruiters are not going to do. If these lawyers make it sound too good to be true or do not give you the down side, then what they propose IS TOO EASY TO BELIEVE.



Benji Lewis can be reached at [email protected]

Benji was a Corporal in the U.S. Marine Corp who served in Fallujah and Hadita in 2004 & 2005. He is an IRR resister and community activist in Corvallis, Oregon. He encourages all fellow IRR service members to contact the GI Rights Hotline (1-877-447-4487) [Website Link above] with further questions about the IRR and reference this LINK:couragetoresist_ipod_photo_01


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Readers are more than welcome to use the articles I've posted on Veterans Today, I've had to take a break from VT as Veterans Issues and Peace Activism Editor and staff writer due to personal medical reasons in our military family that take away too much time needed to properly express future stories or respond to readers in a timely manner. My association with VT since its founding in 2004 has been a very rewarding experience for me. Retired from both the Air Force and Civil Service. Went in the regular Army at 17 during Vietnam (1968), stayed in the Army Reserve to complete my eight year commitment in 1976. Served in Air Defense Artillery, and a Mechanized Infantry Division (4MID) at Fort Carson, Co. Used the GI Bill to go to college, worked full time at the VA, and non-scholarship Air Force 2-Year ROTC program for prior service military. Commissioned in the Air Force in 1977. Served as a Military Intelligence Officer from 1977 to 1994. Upon retirement I entered retail drugstore management training with Safeway Drugs Stores in California. Retail Sales Management was not my cup of tea, so I applied my former U.S. Civil Service status with the VA to get my foot in the door at the Justice Department, and later Department of the Navy retiring with disability from the Civil Service in 2000. I've been with Veterans Today since the site originated. I'm now on the Editorial Board. I was also on the Editorial Board of Our Troops News Ladder another progressive leaning Veterans and Military Family news clearing house. I remain married for over 45 years. I am both a Vietnam Era and Gulf War Veteran. I served on Okinawa and Fort Carson, Colorado during Vietnam and in the Office of the Air Force Inspector General at Norton AFB, CA during Desert Storm. I retired from the Air Force in 1994 having worked on the Air Staff and Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon.