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An individual unready, with reservations

I just finished reading yet another story in the Boston Glob that left me steaming. It's a touchy-feely piece about a gentleman named Rolando Rivera. Fifteen years ago Rivera left the Army and began putting his computer skills to work. He's now 44 and pulling down 180,000 a year as a principal systems engineer for a software company. He's married and quite happily settled into his life.

Until Uncle Sam came calling. It seems that Rivera, when he left active duty, agreed to remain as part of the Individual Ready Reserve. For fifteen years, Rivera has been collecting checks from the Army (totalling over $100,000) and giving back nothing except his word to return to serve if called.

Well, he's being called now. The Army wants to send Sergeant First Class Rivera to Afghanistan, but he doesn't want to go. He makes too much money, his wife has a heart condition, and he's woefully out of shape. They should send someone else.

Now, I have admitted before I never served in the military, so I am in no position to judge Sgt. Rivera on those grounds. But I am a taxpayer, and for fifteen years he's been taking MY money and betting that he'd never get called upon to fulfill his promise to return. You lost your bet, Mr. Rivera. It's time to pay up.

Personally, if he's so unwilling to go, I'm willing to give him a bye. But I wouldn't just let him go. I'd demand the repayment of every single red cent he'd happily taken as a member of the Ready Reserve. Further, I'd want him to pay for the training expenses and other costs of his replacement -- the soldier who will be going in his place. I'd also take away any pension or any other benefits he's accrued while in the Individual Ready Reserve. Nobody made him sign up for it and nobody made him cash the checks. It was a simple contract, a pure quid pro quo, and he failed miserably to keep up his side of it.

Thank you for your service 15 years ago, Mr. Rivera. You did more then than I have, and I honor you for that. But don't let your mouth write checks your ass can't cash -- especially when those checks are being drawn on my tax dollars.



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Comments (13)

Well, *I* served ten years ... (Below threshold)

Well, *I* served ten years on active duty (6 Air Force and 4 Marines) and I think this slacker needs to be court-martialed and run up the flagpole. And where do "news"papers get off encouraging our troops to evade service?

Ditto! I served in the Nav... (Below threshold)

Ditto! I served in the Navy for 25 years and have been steamed each time a similar situation has come up. During the first Gulf War there were several medical types who accepted Uncle Sam paying for their college but were put out when asked to do their duty. This A$$-clown needs to be in a cell.

Hey, I'm retired now but they could call me up and I'd have to get my pudgy self back into shape. Would I be thrilled? Probably not. But I'd go without complaining because I gave my word. That is what is missing from these arguments. Any discussion of individual ownership of decisions made. I'd deal with junior sailors trying to get out of committments (Car puchase, child support, etc) and would tell them don't put your signature or your d**k anywhere you are not prepared to accept the consequences. Not just the expected consequences but think of the worst possible result of your action.

IRR soldiers aren't usually... (Below threshold)

IRR soldiers aren't usually paid unless they perform duty.

I agree they're still obligated, but they aren't usually paid unless the volunteer to pull duty for pay and mainly for retirement points.

LargeBill: I couldn't agre... (Below threshold)

LargeBill: I couldn't agree more. People no longer "own" anything they do. I honestly believe it started with my own generation. Those of us born in the late sixites. Children of the baby boomers. The generation of excuses. "I am depressed, I am stressed, I fear commitment, I have abandonment issues, blah blah blah" The generation of excuses. Not sure why?

(Disclaimer: I could totally be full of shit, but the logic works for me)

Partly I think it has to do with being more indulged as children than our parents. Most of us come from 2 working parent households and were spoiled to some degree or to a great degree. Parents feeling guilty for not being around and having the money to put a financial bandaid on it. Forgiving behavior because of their own guilt for not having been around to teach the right behavior.

Granted not all of us are like that. I personally own everything I do, good or bad. But I come from two parents who have never walked away from a responsibility in their life. Both worked, and both parented. I never heard, "Mom has been at work/school all day I am too tired." I can honestly say my parents sacrificed for me. Sacrificed their own social life/quiet time to make sure I was raised properly.

It may sound cliche, but if you never expect things from people, they absolutely will not deliver them.

Also, on a final note and spoken as a hispanic female. Mr. Rivera could well suffer from a deplorable lack of spine because of his mother. Many men in my culture, hell many in my family are just like that. Especially the First Born, and The Baby. They take take take and they over achieve as long as it serves them. They screw up and mama comes and makes it better. There is always an excuse for these little princes and someone else does the real work in the family. Does it make them bad men? No. Just spoiled. And it makes their wives have to waste time retraining them when they get married. Trust me, took me 5 years to break my husband of his mother's corruption.

Mr. Rivera probably took an... (Below threshold)

Mr. Rivera probably took an "early out" option back in the early 1990's. Part of the deal was that you'd get an annual stipend in exchange for remaining on IRR status. That option was given since the Army was throwing you out on your ass even if you didn't want to go.

IIRC, Mr. Rivera could have changed his status to something even less likely to be called up than the IRR and still draw his stipend. Even so, the possibility of being called up was always there and he should have taken care of that.

Jennifer, See ... (Below threshold)

See what you mean about family influence. I worry about that with my own kids. We all want to raise happy well-adjusted kids but deep down we know that hardship helps toughen us up. Tough thing is finding that balance.

I really enjoyed reading th... (Below threshold)

I really enjoyed reading these comments. About the guy, everyone here is right.

That's a lot of money, a huge chunk of years' worth of a commitment and it's completely unreasonable for anyone to conclude that the guy hasn't had enough notice or enough time to respond when called. Obviously, as in, not like someone never told him...particularly after all those years of salary. Perhaps the guy perceived it as "entitlement" instead. Nah, not perhaps.

I dont know. I have mixed e... (Below threshold)

I dont know. I have mixed emotions about this one. I have seen how our reserve forces have been abused due to the lack of planning on the part of Administration. CNN did an excellent piece a few weeks ago about these guys being away from their families for over a year, losing businesses etc. That strikes me as very unfair. At the same time I see your point JT about him being paid.
I also caught the news today on the attack in Afghanistan, and I have to ask myself the question repeatedly, how could we have left so much unfinished there to enter the war in Iraq, and then screw up the war in Iraq so badly.

Jennifer: I thought I was r... (Below threshold)

Jennifer: I thought I was reading my own thoughts. Excellent!

And as for poor Mr. Rivera, there is an ancient saying: If you take the king's shilling, you do the king's bidding. Although the BG would like to turn this into a question of "unappreciated service" or "ungrateful country" or "hasn't-he-done-enough", Mr. Rivera at bottom has a very simple contractual obligation, and the US is insisting on "specific performance."

So he could feel no spark of duty to honor his commitment, but doesn't. Or he could feel the leaast twinge of shame in trying to weasel, but instead runs to Nanny BG for help. Bottom line he still owes the time. His service could be about honor and responsibility, but if he wants to turn into naked, ugly contract fight, be my guest. Man up, Rolando.

David: Check your sources. ... (Below threshold)

David: Check your sources. The SF and the Afghani Council are quite pleased with how things are progressing there, and Al Q is investing a lot of time and resources and having a hard time just staying alive (seems alienating the majority of the population of the country was a bad idea after all).
Iraq is ticking along as well- every day more Iraqis have power and water; the first new university since the 1990's has opened; the Iraqi National Police are becoming more confident and more willing to tangle with the likes of al-Sistani. The only people really displeased with how our operations are progressing in both nations are the people with a political agenda that is advanced by a perception of American failure... many of whom work at CNN.
Part of your problem is a false perception of how well things should be going. I recommend that you try using our occupation of Japan or Germany as a yardstick- or our de facto occupation of Viet Nam as a negative example.
I recommend Strategy Page and some of the Iraqi blogs (specifically Iraq The Model and Healing Iraq) and some of the soldier blogs (Fear and Loathing in Iraq is good, as is Citizen Smash) for information with less of an agenda.
As far as Mr. Riviera goes: Too damn bad for him. He signed the contract. He knew that he was subject to call-up. Now he wants to whine about it? I am reminded of the Marine Reservist who deserted during Desert Storm I, who claimed that he had just joined up for the education bennies and that his recruiters had never told him that he might have to fight.

This is all very strange to... (Below threshold)

This is all very strange to me. I've never heard of IRR members getting paid without drilling, nor have I ever heard of someone beyond their initial 8-year (or 6-year, back in the olden days when I first entered the service) obligation.

Was this some special program cooked up by the Army (or maybe DoD) back during the Clinton slash-and-burn years?

I spent four years in the I... (Below threshold)

I spent four years in the IRR and had the same initial reaction: I didn't get paid, so how'd he pull it off? Then I realized that, yes, I did get paid. Three years of GI Bill and Navy College Fund money added up to almost 28 grand.

That does leave over 70 grand unaccounted for, so perhaps there was some special incentive program involved. But, as much as I'd have hated it if I'd been called up during those four years (I was in school after all), I'd have gone. They fulfilled their end of the bargain, so I would've fulfilled mine.

Just a few clarifications t... (Below threshold)
Rolando Rivera:

Just a few clarifications to assumptions made above:

(1) I served in the military for 15 years and was released 11 years ago on a Voluntary Separation Incentive (VSI) program.

(2) The Army was overstrength in my occupational specialty and offered this program as an alternative to full retirement (much less than full retirement but better than walking away empty handed after 15 years of honorable service).

(3) I never received a penny for membership in the Individual Ready Reserve (zero dollars, zero benefits, zero training, zero time in uniform).

(4) The money I received was a VSI annuity for service I performed between August of 1978 and September of 1993.

(5) During my 15 years of distinguished service I received Meritorious Service Awards for supporting combat operations in Iraq, Panama, and Somalia (Desert Storm, Just Cause, and Restore Hope).

(6) I was also Airborne qualified and provided computer systems support to special operations units in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

(7) I attended night school while serving in the military and earned a Bachelors of Science Degree from the University of Maryland.

(8) My family would lose about 80% of our annual income if recalled to active duty.

(9) The authority line in my mobilization order cites US Code 12302.

(10) I have 'requested' exemption from mobilization based on guidelines for selection that are specified in US Code. Specifically:

(b) To achieve fair treatment as between members in the Ready Reserve who are being considered for recall to duty without their consent, consideration shall be given to--
(1) the length and nature of previous service, to assure such sharing of exposure to hazards as the national security and military requirements will reasonably allow;
(2) family responsibilities;

(11) My initial request was denied. I am now seeking an appeal of that decision through official channels.

(12) I have complied with orders in asking that the selection process take into account the circumstances that are outlined in US Code 12302.






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