BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (AFNS) --
Headquarters Air Reserve Personnel Center hosted the 2019 Joint Individual Ready Reserve Conference at Buckley Air Force Base, June 13-15.
The Joint IRR Conference included representatives from the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines and Navy, educating one another on their service-specific IRR programs. While each service program has the same Office of the Secretary of Defense policies driving them, the consensus was that the conference was of great value for each service to attend by being able to discuss ongoing problems experienced by each branch.
“It was a huge benefit for everyone,” said Rod Ballard, Force Support & Readiness Branch chief, Headquarters Air Force. “During our last push-pull exercise, we discovered that we all had the same main IRR issues. We all have the same (objectives) and this has been an opportunity to benchmark the best IRR program practices of other services.”
Some of the many topics discussed were musters, training, mobilization, drug testing and skills proficiency degradation, which is mostly applicable to members who have been out of the service longer than a year. Additionally, some service members gain proficiencies in skillsets unrelated to their military occupations.
By having better visibility on the civilian employment information of each IRR member, the services can better meet their readiness needs should the civilians be reactivated for military duty.
The Navy experienced a real-life example of this when they brought an IRR member back to perform 3D printing, which was not his rating (occupation) while in uniform. However, this ended up meeting a greater need for the Navy at the time, said Master Sgt. David Smith, Pre-trained Individual Manpower, or PIM, mobilization manager at Headquarters ARPC.
While there were specific examples and unique stories to share about how their programs worked, they all agreed there was one big challenge they collectively faced - IRR communication and contact rates.
“Everybody seems to have the same issues, but implementing active duty communication before members leave service is the biggest problem for all of the services,” said Charles Freeman, Navy IRR Division program manager.
Freeman reached out to Headquarters ARPC and the other branches in late 2018 to determine if a joint IRR conference could come to fruition in 2019. The last joint conference was held more than 10 years ago, but after this conference there is hope to hold them annually going forward, said Smith.
“Having this conference allowed all services to discuss the successes and shortfalls we all face; caring and managing the IRR,” he said. “The input from each branch was very valuable and necessary to propel us in the right direction, with the same focus in mind - taking care of and providing education to members.”
The IRR is where Airmen are placed who have separated from an Air force component with a remaining military service obligation. In most cases, enlisted Airmen have an eight-year MSO, regardless of the length of their enlistment under eight years. For example, if an Airman serves six years, he or she then has a MSO for two more years. If this individual serves only four years, then the MSO is four years. For officers, the service commitment is also eight years but with an additional two-year obligation, they can opt out of with conditions. The IRR falls under the umbrella of PIM, which is HQ ARPC's only wartime mission. See HQ ARPC’s IRR webpage for more information.