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"walls of the city" logo conceptualized by Oleg Volk and executed by Linoge. Logo is © "walls of the city".

i stand relieved

Eight years ago today, my father administered the following oath to me while we were both standing on the quarterdeck of the Georgia Institute of Technology Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps unit:

Picture 020-001I, [Linoge], do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

Shortly beforehand, I had signed a document saying that I would give the United States Navy at least four years of active duty service and at least four years of reserve service (the NROTC recruiters invariably leave out the second part, though, as I have proven over the past four years, "Individual Ready Reserve" amounts to pretty much nothing at all.*).

Well, those eight years have elapsed, and I find myself no longer contractually, legally, or morally obligated to the United States Navy, nor under the restrictions and limitations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and, as such, free to speak my mind as I see fit about the service I honorably rendered.

A little over four years since I last requested permission to go ashore, about the only thing I find I really want to say is, "If I knew then what I knew now, I probably would not have bothered," and, honestly, that makes me a bit sad.

All that said, I neither recall nor see an expiration or release date in the oath I took with my right hand raised and all that; take that as you like.

(* – To show how much of a nothing the Navy’s IRR program is, I attempted to contact the Naval Reserve branch office in San Diego when we were getting ready to move in order to report my status and inform them that we were about to move, as I was legally obligated to do. The officer on the other end of the line did not understand why I was calling if I was not an actual Reservist, and told me that unless I was willing to become one (and he would be quite happy to help me do so), they did not need to hear from me ever again. I politely declined his offer, and went on my merry.)

15 comments to i stand relieved

  • Chad

    It’s been uncomfortably close to 20 years since I got out, and I have to say, I don’t regret it in the slightest. I got to go to a whole bunch of places that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I was at least not a complete idiot and didn’t spend all my time drinking and chasing women, and did a number of sightseeing things instead.

    My oath didn’t come with an expiration date, either. Gotta say, though, I’m envious of your dad administering the oath to you.

  • MAJ Mike

    I took a similiar oath of enlistment in 1976, then a commissioning oath in 1978. Although I retired with 24 years of service in 2000, in my mind both oaths remain in effect.

    There’s quite a few of us out here.

  • Don

    Since we haven’t been at war (which has a very specific LEGAL meaning in this context) since 1946, the IRR doesn’t really mean anything. It’s just a list of previously trained servicemen who may be recalled in time of war. Just as, after 20 or more years active service, one may “retire”, but is still on “Retired Retainer Pay” and can be called back until the 30th anniversary of entry into service. Only then does the military have no further call on you. Even if, like me, you are medically retired, you can be called back. But my re-enlistment code is such that even if the British burned Washington, D.C. again I probably would be turned down.

  • J

    @ Don:
    Hmmmm… I don’t want to be antagonistic but I think you’ve misspoke a bit. For a (relatively unhappy) couple of years I was one of the guys that got to help mobilize, train and deploy Reserve and National Guard units. At various points in the conflict in Iraq I had units that had somewhere between a handful and a LOT of IRR Soldiers. In fact, for a while, the tongue-in-cheek meaning of IRR was “Iraq Ready Reserve.”

    There are plenty of currently deployed IRR servicemembers.

  • Don

    @ J:
    I may be mistaken, as it’s been awhile since I was concerned with it. IRR can be brought back on duty for several reasons, but they have usually been volunteers for specific assignments. During the period 1977-1989, I ran into a few. Ususally officers or enlisted in very specialized fields. Again, I am a bit out of touch and the .gov may have changed the rules after September, 2001.

  • @ Chad: If I am not mistaken, his father actually administered the oath to him at a location not very far from where I was standing at the time. We have three generations of Navy service in my family, on both sides for that matter :).

    It is true enough that I would not have gone many places I did without the Navy, so at least there is that.

    @ MAJ Mike: My understanding, as Don indicated, is that retirees remain contractually obligated to the military for some time after their separation as well, to boot.

    I think those who would deprive us of our rights are willfully ignorant of how many people have taken oaths like ours…

    @ Don: Yeah, in times of actual war, IRR makes sense. In times when they do not even keep track of the people who are in IRR, though… well, they are kind of hosed. *shrug* No difference to me, now; my time is done :).

    @ J: I, too, have to wonder if they were volunteers… or if the Army has different requirements/clauses for IRR membership. But, with Navy guys filling in Army billets in Iraq (one of the many reasons I pulled chocks and got the hell out of there), I can see why the Army would be calling folks up.

  • As best I can tell, I’m technically still liable for mobilization from the USAR Control Group (Retired Reserve) until I reach the age of sixty (I retired from the National Guard). Of course, since my current civilian job consists of training Soldiers in the MOS I held for over 20 years, the Army would be better off* leaving me there than mobilizing a superannuated NCO like me….

    *I, on the other hand, would be better off if the Army did mobilize me; I have enough active-duty time that they would have to keep me mobilized until I reached 20 years of active-duty service. That would, in turn, make me eligible to begin drawing retirement pay immediately upon demobilization. As a “gray-area” retiree from the Reserve Components, I have to wait until I reach the age of sixty to draw retirement pay. OTOH, my current status does allow me use of commissaries, post/base exchanges and Space-A travel (CONUS-only, more’s the pity), so there’s some benefit to my current status.

  • MAJ Mike

    From 2000 until 2010, I was a member of the Retired Reserve. At age 60, I was fully retired from military service. We took an oath to a piece of paper, an idea. We did not swear loyalty to an individual, an organization, or a government.

    Those who have not been in our situation cannot understand that our obligation is glady carried to our graves.

  • J

    @ Don:
    I honestly couldn’t tell you what the rules were prior to 9/11. I didn’t hear the term IRR until after that.

    I honestly don’t remember too many of them that were actual volunteers. I know one showed up at the mobilization station with a beard, about 150lbs overweight and not sure whether he was a Captain or a Lieutenant.

    @Linoge, As noted above, I don’t think that many of them were volunteers. Of course, I was just one guy at one of many mobilization stations so my anecdote is hardly more than a data point.

  • Geodkyt

    They involuntarily activated a BUNCH of IRR guys for DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM. All in pretty esoteric (and suddenly high-demand) MOS’s.

    I got out for a variety of reasons, but one that definately stood up high was when I realized that the Commander in Chief at the time (Clinton) didn’t view us as “expendable”, he viewed us as “disposable”. “Expendable”? Always — that’s what teh oath means. “Disposable”? Never — and the kids I trained damned sure weren’t disposable either.

    But yeah, the oath didn’t come with a “Best If Used By” date; it’s just that there are damned few (if any) “lawful orders” I can be given now that my contractual obligation is over. . . {grin}

  • @ AuricTech: Yeah, the rules for re-activation do seem to vary wildly from service to service, and based on how you retired or separated from the service in question. The important thing (for me) is that as of the 10th, I am officially released from any contractual obligation to the Navy – they could try to reactivate me, but they would have to find me first (which is their own damned fault) :).

    @ MAJ Mike: I have to wonder how many Americans actually know how the military service oaths actually read… or how many know how their duly-elected “representatives”‘ oaths read. I doubt a majority…

    @ J: Yeah, hard to say, and, like others have noted, they might have different clauses for their IRR-ness. Up until a few days ago, I suppose I could have been called up if the world had ended, but scott-free now :).

    @ Geodkyt: Heh, the “lawful order” bit is an interesting point, given that fully-separated-but-still-oath-bound folks have no legal or legitimate superiors any more… I really do not think people want to test that.

  • Geodkyt

    As near as I can tell, the ONLY “lawful orders” that I am liable for these days are those that would be lawful if issued to a never-served civilian, such as in a deployment zone, while on a military reservation, or an area in CONUS under temporary martial law during civil unrest.

    Of course, if Lower Slovobodostan invades the US and I end up in an “active” militia componant, well, that’s legally the same as being back in uniform. . .

  • Yeah, the scenarios wherein any of this would really matter are a bit beyond the “believable” range, and we would probably either already be dead or fighting regardless ;).

  • AM

    The Navy is an interesting beast for Officers. A friend of mine from College ended up serving as an EWO in Iraq. It was funny, two boys from rural Washington state ending up in in different branches of service still meeting up in Iraq.

    He was treated poorly by the Navy. My junior officer time in the Army has had equally miserable periods, but never with the level of malicious delight that the Navy seems to place on Ensign/LT’s.

  • Well, to begin with, the Navy is definitely not a homogeneous beast…

    The SWO community (which I assume your friend belonged to) unquestionably eats its junior officers – they have the highest “loss” rate of any of the communities, and “division officer” is among the crappiest jobs on a surface boat.

    The aviator community, on the other hand, eats its senior officers; they get old, they cannot fly any more, and there are not enough desk jobs to go around.

    The sub community… they eat everyone ;).

    But, yeah, one of the reasons I bailed when I did (immediately after my second sea tour, and before my shore tour) was because if I actually accepted that shore tour, there was a 90% chance I would be sent to Iraq as an Individual Augmentation to fill in a hole the Army or Air Force had. Hell with that. I joined the Navy specifically to avoid being shoved into a foxhole (no offence to you nutjobs who volunteered for that), and if that is what you are going to do with me, I am going to literally pack up my bags and go home.

    And I did :).



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