Friday, February 09, 2007

Released From Service

This week I received in the mail a lovely certificate, suitable for framing, declaring that I am honorably discharged from the US Air Force. I knew that my commitment to the Air Force was due to expire sometime in January, but I didn't remember the exact date, and didn't expect that I would get anything from them. I completed my enlistment almost four years ago, but have been in the Individual Ready Reserves (IRR) since then. See, when someone enlists in the military they typically sign up for four or six years, but, either way, they are actually committed for eight: a four or six year period of active duty and the remainder of time in the IRR. Recruiters tend not to mention this, but it's in the fine print.

While you are in the IRR you don't have to do drills like the regular reserves, but until your commitment expires you could be called back to active duty. It is pretty rare that members of the IRR are called up, but it has been happening more often recently. Usually they call up people with particular specialties that they need -- given my specialty I knew it was extremely unlikely that I would be called up. But, then again, when I signed up back in 1999 I didn't expect that we would be involved in any big wars, so I have been wrong before. I also naively thought when I signed up that there were jobs in the military that are strictly desk jobs; but, after September 11, I found out that, in a time of crisis, everybody in the military is a soldier. While I never had to hold a loaded gun knowing that I would be expected to use it against another human being if necessary, people that I worked with, who did the same job I did, and who, like me, had exactly four hours of training with an M-16, did. So, it's nice to know that the military no longer has any claim on me.

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