Army not punishing reservists who won't go to war

October 4th, 2005  
Duty Honor Country

Topic: Army not punishing reservists who won't go to war

By Gregg Zoroya, USA TODAY
Seventy-three soldiers in a special reserve program have defied orders to appear for wartime duty, some for more than a year, yet the Army has quietly chosen not to act against them.

"We just continue to work with them, reminding them of their duty," says Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, an Army spokesman.

The soldiers are part of the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR), a pool of about 110,000 inactive troops who still have contractual obligations to the military but are rarely summoned back to active duty. But an Army stretched thin by the demands of war in Iraq and Afghanistan began a phased call-up of 6,545 of those soldiers in June 2004.

About half have served. About one-fifth have been excused for reasons such as finances, family or health.

The Army has failed to reach 386 of the reservists, often because of invalid or outdated addresses or phone numbers. But Lt. Col. Karla Brischke, who supervises call-ups, says some reservists may simply be avoiding the orders.

Only one officer is among the 73 soldiers who either ignored their orders or refused to serve. Brischke says Army staffers keep calling and reminding them of "duty, honor, country" and their need to fulfill their obligations.

Hilferty says the Army hasn't acted in part because IRR troops have historically not been expected to serve. "It's sensitive because we understand they're different soldiers."

The decision to declare these soldiers AWOL or a deserter is up to their commanding officer, Brig. Gen. Rhett Hernandez, the Army's personnel management director. He could not be reached for comment.

Failing to punish those who disobey an order "sets a bad precedent, especially for those in the IRR who have accepted the call to serve," says retired major general John Meyer Jr., the Army's former chief of public affairs.

The behavior may be reinforced by peace activist groups operating the GI Rights Hotline, which keeps reservists informed about the Army's failure to act. "What we tell them is that right now, the Army is not doing anything to pursue IRR call-ups," hotline counselor Dawn Blanken says.

Army regulations state that a soldier who doesn't report for duty is usually declared absent without leave, or AWOL, and ultimately accused of desertion. Punishments can range from counseling to a less-than-honorable discharge. During war, the maximum punishment for desertion is death, a sentence last carried out in 1945.

The Army's failure to act sends the wrong message, says Mike Belter, an IRR lieutenant colonel called up last year.

"I didn't think at 48 I was going to be in a war zone," Belter says. "I could have said no. But it was what we signed up for, what we volunteered for in the first place, a sense of service to country."

October 5th, 2005  
Have these guys served previously in the Middle East???
I wonder if this is a sign of the times. You can your people around only so much before they start quiting etc.
Was a cuurent affairs program on a week ago about a US reservest just returned from IRAQ was home 4 days then was called up to go over again!!!!
Is this problem talked about much in the USA?
October 6th, 2005  
Hang them all for treason.
October 15th, 2005  
uncle charlie
That's exactly what it is, Treason. These people signed up, fully knowing what was expected of them. No one forced them to sign the dotted line. Cowards like these need to be dealt with accordingly.
October 16th, 2005  
Not treason. AWOL. Treason is collaborating with the enemy, or aiding the enemy etc. They're just not serving when asked to. Absent without leave. Charge them and chuck them in a military prison. Make an example of them.