Military Times

2012 Insider's Guide to the Guard and Reserve

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Joining Up



The Ready Reserve is the category of reservists most often called to active duty. The Ready Reserve consists of three subcategories: Selected Reserve, Individual Ready Reserve and Inactive National Guard.

Selected Reserve. Most reservists are in this category and are the first to be activated. These reservists must complete 48 unit training assemblies, or drills, plus two weeks of annual training each year.

Traditionally, drills are held once a month on weekends. On an average weekend, reservists are paid for four drills, five if the drill starts on a Friday.

It is important to ask about a unit’s drill schedule before joining. Many reservists who directly support active components drill whenever they are able, sometimes during the week. Such flexible schedules can be a benefit for those with irregular civilian work hours.

The Selected Reserve consists of units and individuals in the following categories:

Drilling reservists in units. Trained unit members who participate in unit training activities on a part-time basis.

Training pipeline. Enlisted members of the Selected Reserve who have not yet completed initial active duty for training and officers who are in training for professional categories or in undergraduate flying training.

♦ Individual Mobilization Augmentees. IMAs are assigned to active-duty units. In times of emergency and war, they can be called up quickly to get their unit up to par.

IMAs train on a part time with the organizations to which they are assigned to prepare for mobilization. Inactive duty training is decided upon by component and varies from zero to 48 drills per year.

Active Guard and Reserve. These reservists serve on full-time active duty to administer and train their units at headquarters level. Others are recruiters or instructors.

This category includes active Air Force, Army Reserve, National Guard and Navy Full-Time Support personnel and Marine Corps Active reservists. They are assigned mobilization slots or billets in the units they serve.

In the Navy Reserve, Navy Full-Time Support members are on active-duty rolls but are considered part of the Reserve. The Navy allows these members to go to sea and fill other operational jobs, but when ashore, they’re assigned to administer reserve units.

Job opportunities in this category are posted on the websites of the individual reserve components.

Individual Ready Reserve. The IRR is made up mainly of those who have had training and served in an active component. Other IRR members come from the Selected Reserve and have some of their military service obligation remaining.

IRR members may be involuntarily recalled in a national emergency. Other requirements include an annual day of muster to duty to satisfy screening requirements. IRR members may participate in voluntary temporary tours of active duty and military professional development education programs.

Most of those who join the service through the delayed-entry program spend time in the IRR while awaiting basic training. Also, those whose active or reserve enlistment expires after four years may be put in the IRR until they fulfill participation requirements.

IRR members can be promoted, compile points and years toward retirement, and train annually, although this is not required.

Because those in the IRR do not belong to a unit, it is up to the individual to complete the correspondence courses required for drill points and find a command that has the money to pay for training to get the 50 points per year needed to accrue “creditable,” or “good,” years toward retirement. This does not apply to those in inactive IRR status.

Inactive National Guard. Only the Army maintains an Inactive National Guard. Those who leave active drilling status in the Guard before completing their enlistment will be put in this category unless they specifically request a transfer to the Individual Ready Reserve.

Those in inactive status cannot drill for pay or points. They are ineligible for annual training and cannot be promoted. However, they are required to muster with their last unit once a year. In the event of a full activation, they can be recalled to service with that unit.


These are reservists who maintain their military affiliation but are not members of the Ready Reserve. There are two types of Standby Reservists: Active Status and Inactive Status. Normally, these reservists are key federal or state employees, but also can be civilians in the defense industry whose employers designate them as crucial to national security.

Active Status. These reservists can voluntarily participate in training for retirement but receive no pay. They are eligible for promotion, with the exception of promotion to flag or general officer level. Those who elect to be transferred to this status because of hardship or health reasons are allowed to maintain their military status because they have skills the reserves may need in the future.

Inactive Status. Those in this status are not authorized to take part in training for retirement points and cannot be promoted. It takes a congressionally declared war or other national emergency to get the Standby Reserve recalled to active duty, and then only when there are not enough members of the Ready Reserve to do the job. The secretary of defense has the final authority on who is activated from this status.


Service members collecting military pensions and benefits from active or reserve duty are placed in the Retired Reserve. This status includes:

♦ Retired reservists eligible for retired pay who have not reached age 60 and thus are not qualified to collect retirement pay. They are known as RET-2 or Retired Awaiting Pay reservists.

♦ Active-duty enlisted retirees of the Army and Air Force who have completed at least 20 but less than 30 years of combined active and inactive service. Once they reach 30 years of service, they are fully retired.

♦ Retired Navy and Marine Corps enlisted members with at least 20 but less than 30 years of service who are part of the Fleet Reserve or Fleet Marine Reserve. After reaching the 30-year mark, they can be put on the retired list or ask to be assigned to the Retired Reserve.

Within the Retired Reserve are three mobilization categories, depending on physical fitness, age and date of retirement. Category 1 includes those who are within five years of their retirement, under age 60 and not disabled. Category 2 includes those who are more than five years past their retirement date, younger than age 60 and not disabled. Category 3 covers all others, including the disabled and those older than 60. People in this category are evaluated case by case for recall during a full mobilization.

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