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Reserve Getting Low


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Lawmaker: Reserves Near Breaking Point

Jul 7, 1:11 PM (ET)


WASHINGTON (AP) - The Pentagon is taxing its reserve soldiers "nearly to the breaking point" with repeated and extended deployments in its two ongoing wars, a senior lawmaker told defense officials Wednesday.

"I'm worried ... worried for them, for asking very few to exert an enormous sustained effort for the good of all of us," said Missouri Rep. Ike Skelton, ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.

The committee was hearing testimony on troop rotations in Iraq and Afghanistan, looking with particular interest at reservists and at a move made last week by the Defense Department to call back soldiers who have already served.

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. More than 5,600 former soldiers - mostly those who recently finished serving and have 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.

Perhaps thousands more are likely to be called up next year, the Pentagon said.

The new call-up 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.

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. They are eligible to be recalled in an emergency because their active duty hitches did not complete the service obligation in their enlistment contracts.

Stretched by war needs, the Pentagon has declared a "stop-loss" to prevent the separation of troops who have finished their obligation. The Army is so stretched for manpower that in April it broke a promise to some active-duty units, including the 1st Armored Division, that they would not have to serve more than 12 months in Iraq. It also has extended the tours of other units, including some in Afghanistan.

"We're taxing our part-time soldiers, our Guard and Reserves nearly to the breaking point," said Skelton. "We have to be aware that the families back home are paying a significant price. We don't want to break the force."

Critics say the stop-losses and dipping into the Individual Ready Reserve amounts to conscripting people to fight in Iraq. Some say the military needs a permanent increase in troops.

Here comes the DRAFT!..........

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