Placeholder canvas

the individual ready reserves

September 10, 2019

As I began to research potential post-Army interests within wildlife conservation, I came across wildlife veterinarians. I started to go down the veterinarian school rabbit hole started looking for people to reach out to for some mentorship, I scoured the global (The Army’s Outlook email address book) and found a few people. One Army reservist lieutenant colonel (LTC) I spoke with asked if I had considered the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR).

Well, I hadn’t. I was under the impression that the IRR was “inactive ready reserve” and that you didn’t do anything and basically the Army maintained your name on a list to activate if WWIII kicked off.

I was completely wrong…


  • Everyone who joins the Army, enlisted or officer, three-year contract or six-year contract, owes the Army a military service obligation (MSO) of eight years. Whatever is not served on active duty must be completed in the IRR. So if you graduate from West Point and have a five-year active duty commitment and decide to get out after that, you still will be in the IRR for an additional three years. If you’re like me, and you’ll be at the end of your eight-year MSO when you’re transitioning, then you must elect to stay in the IRR in your Resignation from Active Duty (REFRAD) paperwork.
  • When I went to a separation briefing and counseling about the Army Reserve Component, one counselor put it best when he referred to the IRR as the “world’s shittiest lottery.” Less than 2,000 IRR members get activated annually out of the over 800,000. But if you do get activated, you have to drop what you’re doing and answer the call, which apparently will only come by certified mail, by the way. Seems weird, I know…
  • The IRR is a great way to maintain your commission in the Army without resigning it outright. It is much easier to move from the IRR to the Army Reserves (requires one paper, from what I understand) than it is to try to come back into any component of the Army after completely resigning your commission (requires a huge packet and board review and can take several months).
  • You get no Tricare benefits in the IRR (unless you’re on active duty orders), but you can purchase a dental plan. UPDATE: This has changed and when I checked the site again for potential personal dental care, this is no longer an option. Leaving this up in case it becomes an option again and so people can see this used to be an option.
  • You can get a military ID card. You can get a military ID card (not a CAC) and have access to some services. When I first wrote this article back in 2019, I was only able to find information about the IRR ID card on one website. I couldn’t find anything else written about it so I was a bit skeptical that these even existed. Now that I personally have one of the ID cards and was able to validate the information I’d found, I’ve made a video that covers the important details about this card because it actually is kind of interesting.

Check out this video if you want to learn more about the IRR ID card.

  • You earn an automatic 15 retirement points per year for just being enrolled in the IRR. You need a minimum of 50 points in a year to constitute a “good year” that will count towards retirement. You can earn additional points by optionally attending drill or a unit’s Annual Training (AT). There are also allegedly other ways to earn points as well. Correspondence courses used to be an option, which would’ve been epic. But, to my understanding, that option is no longer available. You can choose to either get paid for the drill weekend or take your points. You won’t receive both. You have to decide what works for you, but for me, if I do the IRR, I’ll be taking the retirement points. You essentially have to request to be affiliated with a particular unit and then you can drill with that unit.
  • You can volunteer for active duty Army assignments while in the IRR (Tour of Duty). I’ll go into more detail on this in another post, but it’s pretty cool and I had no idea that this was even an option before. Obviously you’d get active duty pay and TRICARE while you’re on active duty orders for more than 30 days.
  • Your only commitment is an “annual muster” that many people actually don’t show up to. You’ll be notified by mail about the muster date and be given a point of contact. The muster is for baseline readiness and from what I understand, you’re supposed to show up, whatever unit is facilitating takes accountability, and that’s basically it. I’ve heard that you may have to do an APFT or some 350-1 training. I’m not encouraging this, but it seems to not be a significant issue if you don’t show up. People don’t all of the time, and no one has UCMJ authority over you until you physically report. There’s also a “virtual muster,” available at where you just update your contact information and other items online.

No one has ever discussed any of this with me. But to be honest, I’m not at all surprised that there is little to no advertising in the Army of these awesome options. I’ve just happened to discover them through talking with random people, YouTube, HRC website, blogs, and digging around on Reddit. That’s part of the reason for this post.

So really, if you are considering resigning your commission and getting out of the Army, want some more freedom and flexibility but maybe are still unsure about getting out of the Army completely, and the one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer is a bit much, you should consider the IRR. As far as I can tell, based off of hours and hours of research, you essentially serve on your own terms. You can basically participate as little as or as much as you want. Who would even think this would be a possibility in the Army?!

For me, the most appealing thing about the IRR is that it allows me to maintain options. Do I have any idea whether or not I’ll want to do the National Guard or Reserves at some point? Nope. I don’t even know what my life is going to look like in 12 months. But what the IRR allows is for me maintain the ability to transition to a different component and continue serving–if that’s something that interests me later. And if I’m over it, then it didn’t cost me anything!

Hopefully I’ll have even more information soon. I emailed the HRC IRR POCs over a week ago and called every single phone in their office and no one has answered the phone or responded to my emails. So there’s that.

Also, for your reference, you can go down the rabbit hole below in the officially published HRC IRR Soldier Handbook.

In a future article, I’ll discuss Tour of Duty and all of the opportunities available on that website for anyone in the Army Reserves, Army National Guard, IRR, or IMA (Individual Mobilization Augmentee) Program.