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George Bush’s Military: Merry Christmas

December 10th, 2005

Patricia Arndt, a 43-year-old single mother (her son is 13), served four years in the Army in the 1980’s. She left the Army 20 years ago, signing up to be an “individual mobilization augmentee reservist,” which just meant that she was to fill in at home for soldiers gone overseas. She was not a reservist signed up to a unit, and never expected to be called up. But this year, she got a swell Christmas present: she was pulled from the inactive Army reserve, put on Individual Ready Reserve (combat potential), and then ordered to report for active duty by February 5 next year, possibly for service in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Welcome to George W. Bush’s military.

So Ms. Arndt will have to sell her house because the money she’ll be paid while in service won’t cover the house payments. So long, happy homestead. She runs a small business, which she may have to kiss goodbye. And who knows if her job as a respiratory therapist will still be there when she gets back. To top it all off, her 13-year-old son is not old enough to live alone, and her only hope of family care might fall through. So you’d think that a hardship exemption might be in order.

The Army’s response: tough shit. “Single parents are treated no differently than any other soldier, and are expected to have a family care plan at all times,” a spokesperson said. Um, excuse me–“soldier”?

When the military has to resort to yanking single moms in their 40’s out of lives which will be wrecked by pulling them away, then at the very least, the Bush administration has no choice but to admit that they’re not hitting recruitment goals, and they are overextending the military to unbelievable extents.

Via Atrios.

Categories: Iraq News, Political Ranting Tags: by
  1. Paul
    December 10th, 2005 at 15:02 | #1

    While plainly our nation’s military is getting more and more messed up, thanks to a stupid war that we should not have started and should not still be in, I personally have a hard time mustering up huge amounts of sympathy for reservists who get called up.

    The fact of the matter is that they knew perfectly well, or they should have known, that they might get called up. What is the point of having a “reserve” if it’s “well, you’re in reserve, but you’ll never get called up to do anything”?

    No, these reservists who’ve re-upped year after year, happily accepting the money that comes with the duty now want to say “but wait, when I signed up I never thought they would actually make me DO anything”.


    Now, the stop-loss stuff is BS. Refusing to let someone out at the time they’re supposed to get out is weak; it’s my understanding that while the details and fine print of their enlistments might well have said it could happen, the fact is that it was never presented that way to those folks.

    But the people who signed up for the National Guard and the Reserves? Sorry, that’s the point of being in the reserve.

    If your life situation changes and you get into a spot where you’re not going to be able to do it if you get called up, you shouldn’t be in the Reserve.

    I feel badly for this lady; but life is hard and sometimes we just have to live with the decisions we make. Signing up to be in the Army Reserve is a very serious deal; the Army, after all, is in the guns-and-killing business. She knew that. And the entire concept of a “reserve” is that they might get called up, if needed.

    Well, whether the war itself is wise (it’s not) the fact is that the Army, the one that she knowingly and willing signed up for (and took its money), needs her. Time to go.

    Seattle, WA

  2. Luis
    December 10th, 2005 at 16:32 | #2

    Paul: I’d agree with you except for one thing–Arndt signed up as an individual mobilization augmentee reservist, meaning she expected to be able to stay in the U.S., and live near her home, if she were called–serving while also living here. The bad part was when they switched her over to the combat-potential Individual Ready Reserve, and then shipped her off. Her original deal was, I’ll serve at home if called. The military, however, seems to have you for whatever the hell they want, so long as they have you for anything.

    Not to mention the fact that hardship exclusions are there for hardship cases, and it’s hard to see how Arndt wouldn’t qualify. She would probably have no problem if they asked her to do what she signed up for, and not what they eventually did.

  3. ykw
    December 11th, 2005 at 02:48 | #3

    Perhaps her contract said “individual mobilization augmentee”, unless the things get tight, in which case, it switches over. Contacts often have lots of fine print. My guess is she was nailed by the fine print.

  4. Paul
    December 11th, 2005 at 13:06 | #4

    Sorry, still not buying it. For one thing, after doing some research (taking a page from your lesson, Luis!) I can’t really find anywhere that says “IMA reservists will, if called up, serve within CONUS” or anything like that.

    As near as I can tell, there really isn’t much difference between IMA and IRR. From the Army regulation governing the IMA program:

    1-4. Objectives. The overall objective of the IMA program is to facilitate the rapid expansion of the Active Army wartime structure of the Department of Defense and/or other departments or agencies of the U.S. Government to meet military manpower requirements in the event of military contingency, pre-mobilization, mobilization, sustainment and/or demobilization operations.

    Nowhere in here does it say anything about IMA folks being subject to activation but remaining within the CONUS; indeed, as you (Luis) point out, once the Army has you they’re going to use you wherever/whenever/whyever they darn well please.

    In fact, when you read the concept behind the IMA, it’s pretty clear that it’s a program intended on being able to pop someone into a position *right now* if they’re needed. (Historically, many reserve units- when mobilized- will need some time to “train up” to get themselves back up to speed before deployment.)

    1-5. Concept of operation

    a. The projected military manpower requirements needed to respond to future contingency operations and/or actual mobilization, far exceed the Army’s normal peacetime staffing levels. Many of these military manpower requirements must be filled early on during the initial stages of an emerging crisis and well before a partial or full mobilization is declared. These requirements must be filled with qualified soldiers who are able to report to and perform their assigned duties without delay, orientation or post mobilization training. This objective is accomplished by preassigning qualified members of the Army’s Selected Reserve to mobilization required positions. These positions have been specifically designated and documented to augment Active Army units and/or other authorized agencies of the U.S. Government. Soldiers selected for assignment to these positions are known as individual mobilization augmentees (IMA) or drilling individual mobilization augmentees (DIMA). IMA/DIMA soldiers are trained in peacetime so that they are able to perform their designated duties when ordered to active duty.

    b. IMA, as Selected Reserve members, are subject to immediate, involuntary order to active duty whenever a Presidential Selected Reserve Call-Up (PSRC) is invoked under 10 USC 673 b. IMA soldiers are also subject to involuntary order to active duty in time of war or national emergency when declared by the President or Congress under title 10, USC, sections 672 and 673.

    In fact, when you get into the guts of the regulation (which can be found at http://docs.usapa.belvoir.army.mil/jw2/xmldemo/r140_145/head.asp), it appears that IMA is actually a program that’s more difficult to get into than typical IRR. This means that everyone is, at base, an IRR member and then on top of that they *might* be an IMA member.

    Therefore, it’d be safe to assume that if you are signing up, you know that your position in IMA is not guaranteed and that if it goes away (or your eligibility goes away for some reason), you might get put “back” into IRR.

    What’s more, I don’t think when you sign up you get to say “I’m only going in if I can get an IMA position”. I am pretty sure (but not positive and don’t have documentation for this) that you simply sign up for the Reserve, and if your position is an IMA position, great, but it might be changed to an IRR position at any time.

    The IMA program does say it will try and keep people in the geographical region in which they live, but that it might not be able to guarantee that:

    3-1 c 1: “…When no qualified reservists can be located in the OCONUS geographical area, qualified reservists residing in CONUS may be assigned to overseas positions by ARPERCEN.”

    The documents go on and on, and much of it is military-speak. (I understand some of that, thanks to having been detailed as a military liason in the FAA for a few years.)

    They all boil down to the same thing, though, which is that if/when someone in the Reserve (whether IMA, IRR, or any other status) is needed, the Army is going to put them where it wants. Period.

    And like I said before, if you’re signing up for the Reserve, you have to know that the entire point of the program is that if you’re needed, they’re going to call you up and off you must go. If your life situation is such that going would be difficult, you shouldn’t be in the Reserve. This isn’t rocket science.

    Despite this, according to the Newsday article you quoted, Luis, almost HALF of the people who have been called up from the IRR have tried to get that recall delayed or eliminated.

    What is the matter with these people? Don’t they realize the entire point of having a Reserve is that when the crap hits the fan, they’re going to have to go?

    I sympathize with them. I know that losing money (often the active-duty salaries are a lot less than they’re making in the civilian world) hurts. I know that separating from their families and friends stinks, and that many have children to raise.

    But dammit, if they’re going to sign up for this kind of program and accept the money that goes with it (and make no mistake about it, the extra money is exactly why many- if not most- people are doing Reserve duty on the side from their regular gigs) then they should be responsible enough to answer the call when it does come.

    As you can tell, this is a bit of an issue for me. If people sign up for the friggin Army, they need to take it more seriously, IMO.

    Seattle, WA

  5. Luis
    December 11th, 2005 at 14:18 | #5

    Well, without making a research project (something I’m not currently inclined to do even if I did have the time), I’ll grant your point–but it still appears plain that that’s the deal she thought she was getting. Whether that was the actual common use of the status (as opposed to what the regs allow for), or if she just got lied to by the recruiter (or whoever handles this kind of thing) who signed her up for reserve duty when she left. I’ll fully agree that she should have read the fine print if you’ll agree that her life is being torn apart now and that neither is correct. I also agree that people who cannot go out and serve should not be signed up to the reserves, but you should also grant that the reserves has, although unofficially, been regarded for a long time as a perk for retired soldiers. When was the last time we dug this deep in the barrel to send people overseas? Which is probably how the recruiter sold it to her–“we never use that clause in the regs, relax, you won’t be called overseas, if anything, it’ll be local.” Or perhaps he just sold it to her as a plain, limited, you’ll-never-be-called deal. A final judgment might lay in whether you believe a person should be held to the volumnious fine print, or to the contract they were told they’d be getting.

    I think the best solution in this case is to simply dismiss her from the reserves, perhaps even levy a fine for a some years’ back wages, payable over time. And, of course (though this will probably never happen), get the recruiters to be honest and tell people that staying in the military in any capacity means that you can and will be called for any duty at any time.

    But the prime concern for me is not to ruin someone’s life and push down their family–especially for a corrupt boondoggle like the current Iraq War.

  6. Paul
    December 11th, 2005 at 16:26 | #6

    Fair enough- the recruiters no doubt downplay the odds of getting called up. And a couple decades’ worth of most Reserve units never being called up (although Reserve units have been used in Bosnia, the first Persian Gulf war, and other actions) tends to get people thinking that “Reserves=not having to get called up”.

    Nonetheless, the point is clear- there’s a bunch of people out there who are, in essence, shirking their duty.

    If you are signing papers that are going to put you into the Army Reserve, you just gotta know that you might well get called up someday. Some crazy dudes might drive some airplanes into skyscrapers, and some stupid dude at 1600 Penn Ave might drive the US into a stupid war…

    I guess for me it just comes down to common sense. Put aside all the research, and the “fine print” stuff. If you sign up and drill to be ready to go into action in the Army (which is what the Reserves are all about)… you shouldn’t be surprised if they actually want you to go into action in the Army.

    And if we let this one lady off the hook by just paying some back wages, where do we draw the line? How many other contracts do we let people out of if they change their minds later, so long as they just pay things back? And what does this particular case do to military discipline and the whole notion of the Reserve?

    No, I’m afraid not. She should go.

    I think this war is screwed up. I think it’s a pathetic commentary on Bush’s folly that the military is getting harder and harder up for soldiers. I think it’s weak that we have to have stop-loss, and that we’re calling up this many Reservists and Guardsmen.

    But… sigh. They signed the papers. When you sign the papers to go into the military, that’s exactly what happens. You are IN. They control you, and that’s something that everyone knows- or darned well ought to.

    Seattle, WA

  7. Luis
    December 11th, 2005 at 23:40 | #7

    I’m not saying that everyone should get off like I suggested Arndt should–just true hardship cases. That’s where you draw the line. Otherwise we’re in agreement.

  8. Paul
    December 13th, 2005 at 10:13 | #8

    Well, much like the problem of where to draw the line between truly protecting the freedom of the press to report versus the national security of the US, drawing a line between a “true hardship case” and one where the person should probably go is hard to do.

    Take this gal. Is it a hardship case if she’s going to lose money? Even if it’s significant amounts of money? What if the loss of income forces her to sell her house, or see it foreclosed upon?

    Single parents- when is it a hardship case versus merely an inconvenience? She’s got family- they’re just arguing or something, so the sister doesn’t want to take the kid. But isn’t there a friend or buddy at school whose family would take the kid in for several months or a year? How about in a church community?

    And you know perfectly well that with 50% of the Reservists trying to get out of being called up and shipped out that if the “hardship” standards were relaxed that there would be a LOT more people claiming hardship (just as if the government had more power to claim “national security” to get sources revealed, there’d be a lot more of that.)

    I don’t know this lady’s case well enough to know if it’s what I would consider a true hardship or not. But I do think that the situation calls out for a “hardship” being something that’s relatively tough to get, else it be abused.

    Perhaps the best solution would be to simply not let those people sign up. Got a kid and you’re a single parent? You’re required to have an alternate parenting plan in place with at least two responsible alternatives to house/parent your child in case you get called up, or else you’re not allowed to be in the Reserves.

    Of course, right now that would be a disaster; too many people would be booted, when our current stupid policy needs them.

  9. Jim
    April 24th, 2006 at 10:43 | #9

    I enjoyed reading both pro’s and cons of Ms. Arndt’s IMA situation.
    I am currently still serving as a reservist, it’s been 26 years and still counting. 4 of those years were Active Duty,
    12 years Air Guard and Air Force reserves since.
    Have either of you ever served a day in the military serving your country? You personally, not a past or present family member? I believe the old saying that freedom isn’t free and we should ALL do our part to defend this nation, but my believes may not be yours or anyone elses.
    I have served in hostile areas under President Reagan in Panama, President Clinton in Bosnia and both Gulf wars with both Bush Senior and Junior. Ok I feel this war is not truely necessary to this extreme but I also feel it was not necessary for Clinton to send our troops to Bosnia or Reagan to Panama. I didn’t like the idea of risking my life to reel in a drug lord by Reagan or serving in Bosnia covering Clinton’s lies of multiplying the numbers of genocide victims in Bosnia Herzegovina to mask or downplay the headlines of Clintons sex lies with Monica.
    But I knew when I raised my hand that I was SWEARING to defend the United States against all enemies FOREIGN and DOMESTIC without regard to my feelings towards my nations leadership. I’ve raised my hand six times and said that, and each time it meant as much to my heart as the first. I didn’t join up again and again for the money. The first time was, after that it was because I truely love my country. Maybe that sounds silly in this day and age when president bashing is more popular than realizing that people in this world truely want to annihilate the United States (in addition to Israel).
    We can all remember during the first Gulf War when Reservists were saying that they joined for the college benefits, not to actually go to war.
    Ms. Arndt knew what she was getting into. She’s not the first Reservist be it as an IMA,IRR or Active or Traditional Reservist to undergo what she has experienced.
    I feel sorry that she will experience a hardship with her business and family life. I feel sorry for the tens of thousands who will experience the same thing. Most of us who are there, were there or will be there have kids, She’s not the first to experience a hardship, and we are there because we were either activated or volunteered to be there. But plain and simple we know we joined to defend this nation and that’s why we serve. I have ZERO sympathy for her that she feels she was going to stay in the US backfilling for deployed members. I am going to go IMA within the next 6 months. I know what to expect, just as she knew what to expect. No sir, you are clearly defending her because you are a Bush basher, if Kerry was sending her would you continue to stand firm in your stance to defend her? and if you search your heart can you honestly say that he would have not gotten us over there? No one in this world can truely say for certainty.
    Unless you were there with her recruiter you cannot say what he may or may not have told her. There are always two sides to every story and you know only hers.
    As an experienced and seasoned still proudly serving member of the Armed Forces, I have no sympathy for her or those like her.
    If she wanted to make extra money expecting to backfill for deployed Soldiers, Airman,and Marines, Maybe she should have applied as a cashier at the BX, PX,or NEX at her nearest military installation, rather than raise her hand and take the oath to defend her nation.

  10. Jim
    April 25th, 2006 at 15:22 | #10

    I’d also like ask where you got your statistic on 50% of the reserves trying to get out? We in the USAF reserves are quite happy and my comrades in arms across the fence in the Army that I’ve spoken to seem content enough to continue reenlisting as well. If your statistic comes from the biased media, well, consider the source. Happy stories don’t sell newspapers.
    Additionally I’d like to point out that Ms. Arndt would not be necessarily placed in a financial bind. She would be receiving “rent plus” on her LES (Leave and Earnings Statement)while in Active Duty thusly her rent would be 90 to 100% covered, and added onto her pay would be entitlements such as additional for dependents, and while in a hostile area she would receive Hazardous duty pay, Family separation pay, and Hostile fire pay totalling more than $550.00 more on her monthly LES, and it’s non taxable. When on active duty figuring in my TIS/TIG Time in Service/Time in Grade I make nearly double what I earn from my $21.00 hr. job, Maybe she doesn’t have much TIS/TIG accumulated but being prior military from 20 years ago I can assure you she wouldn’t be hurting financially if she’s a responsible money manager.
    She’s crying up the wrong tree, she should take responsibility for her actions, She took an oath of allegiance to defend this nation. She spoke it from the heart. She can live with breaking that oath with the United States but if she can live with breaking that oath with herself, She has no conscience and can’t be relied upon to be a good soldier, good neighbor or good friend.

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