The federal Selected Reserve and state National Guards augment the active duty military with part-time service members that can be called up to active duty when needed. These components saw regular deployments to the Middle East during the Global War on Terror and continue to deploy in support of military operations around the world. However, many Americans may not know that the Individual Ready Reserve is another source of service members who can augment the active duty military.
On July 13, 2023, President Joe Biden ordered the Selective Reserve and certain members of the IRR to active duty. The President’s order notes that the mobilization will “not to exceed 3,000 total members at any one time, of whom not more than 450 may be members of the Individual Ready Reserve.” These service members will bolster the strength of the active duty force. Biden’s order also includes the Coast Guard under the Department of Homeland Security.
The reserve activation is “necessary to augment the active Armed Forces of the United States for the effective conduct of Operation Atlantic Resolve in and around the United States European Command’s area of responsibility,” according to the order. Military activities under Atlantic Resolve began in response to Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in Ukraine on March 18, 2014. On April 30, 2014, a total 150 soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team and supporting Air Force operators were sent to Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. Troops rotated out every 90 days for the majority of 2014 until Atlantic Resolve was more formally established later in the year.
During the 1991 Gulf War, IRR troops were called up to strengthen the military for Operation Desert Storm. The next time the IRR was activated was in February 2003, when approximately 20,000 IRR members were called up to support Operation Enduring Freedom. During the Global War on Terror, the IRR was activated multiple times. These troops were called up to augment active duty forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, with 5,600 IRR members activated in 2004 alone. On March 27, 2020, then-President Trump authorized the activation of up to 1,000,000 IRR members to support the COVID-19 pandemic.