ARLINGTON, Va. -- The Army Reserve, the Army Human Resources Command and the Army National Guard have joined to provide Individual Ready Reserve Soldiers and their families a way to connect with the military community.
By affiliating Individual Ready Reserve Soldiers and their families with a local reserve-component unit, the IRR Affiliation Program creates a support network intended to improve readiness and encourage Soldiers with valuable skills to continue their service, officials said.
After the Army Reserve initiated the program, Army Lt. Gen. William E. Ingram Jr., director of the Army National Guard, recognized its value and committed the Army Guard as a partner, bringing connections to hundreds of units through armories and family programs in communities nationwide.
"[The IRR Affiliation Program] is a total support network, and the [Army National Guard] wanted to be a part of it to ensure that Soldiers and their families are connected to the Army family," said John Schmidt, a program lead from the Army Guard's personnel policy division.
A pilot program in several states determined the IRR Affiliation Program's potential benefits, as well as the impact on each unit's full-time staff and necessary changes to regulations, policies and systems. The five-month test connected more than 4,000 Individual Ready Reserve Soldiers with local Army National Guard units.
The pilot program revealed that the program required minimal additional work for states, units and local commands, because it provides access to networks and resources that already are in place, officials said.
"Most Guard units have a support network already built," explained Gregory Heffner, a program lead. "The program is simply about maintaining a connection -- it is more of a referral program. If a Soldier has an issue, hopefully, they will pick up the phone."
Army Guard officials announced Jan. 26 that the IRR Affiliation Program will expand nationwide and encouraged all states and territories to participate.
"The director of the Army National Guard recognized that these Soldiers are an important part of the Army family," Schmidt said. "From when the Soldier joins the Army on the first day to their eight year re-up, we are going to keep them in touch with the Army family."
Through the program, Soldiers can establish and maintain communications with their affiliated unit, which will be within 50 miles or 90 minutes of travel from their home of record. Soldiers and their families can participate in unit activities and access information and services such as medical readiness resources, employment programs, career counseling, state government and Veterans Affairs information, and family readiness services.
Affiliated Soldiers continue to be assigned to Human Resources Command and are not assigned to the National Guard or the Army Reserve, officials said. Individual Ready Reserve Soldiers may still receive orders to muster from Human Resources Command, they added, but are not required to participate in any activities, including training, with their affiliated unit.
Also, officials said, Soldiers are not required to maintain contact with their affiliated unit. Soldiers who choose not to participate in any events will be required to acknowledge their awareness of the program, their affiliation with a reserve-component unit and their understanding that resources and support always will be available to them while assigned to the Individual Ready Reserve.
"The intent is to have every armory participating, and the expansion of the program will ensure that each Soldier has access to a local community," Heffner said. "We want them to be able to walk into their local armory and ask questions."
The IRR Affiliation Program connects Soldiers with the Army family, and "is their first stop to gain access to services that are their privilege and their right," Schmidt said.