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Rarely used reservists may go to Iraq

From CNN Pentagon Producer Mike Mount

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A group of Army Reserve soldiers rarely tapped for duty could soon be heading to Iraq, Pentagon officials said Wednesday.

The troops, part of the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR), could be called to fill holes in units deploying to Iraq as part of the upcoming rotation of troops later this year.

As many as 6,500 IRR troops could be called and would be chosen because of critical skills needed in Iraq, such as Military Police, infantry or engineers, Pentagon officials said.

A decision by the Pentagon to call up these troops is expected within the next week, according to officials.

The Pentagon has a pool of about 118,000 Army IRR troops, consisting of people with past military service who have a remaining mandatory service obligation. The category is distinct from regular Reserve troops because they do not perform any military service during the year, yet are still eligible to be called to service.

About 2,000 IRR troops already serve at some capacity with Operation Iraqi Freedom, though many of them volunteered for service, according to Pentagon officials.

The last time a significant number of IRR troops were called to duty was for the Gulf War in 1991, according to Pentagon officials.

The move reflects the continued shortage of troops available to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to fight the ongoing war on terrorism as well as Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Lt. Gen. Frank Hagenbeck, the Army's deputy chief of staff for personnel, said earlier this month of the Army's troop strength, "We are stretched but we have what we need."

Pentagon officials have echoed that statement explaining that while the military is reaching deep into its resources, war planners have long had contingency plans such as this for when troops are really needed.


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