Inactive Ready Reserve (IRR)

Updated: January 8, 2024
In this Article

    The United States Military has several categories of military service. There are active-duty troops, members of the Air National Guard and Army Guard, and members of the Reserve for each respective branch of service. But there is also another category known as the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR), sometimes referred to as the Inactive Ready Reserve.

    What makes IRR service different from serving as a Marine Corps Reservist, Army Reservist, etc.? The key to understanding the IRR commitment lies in knowing how military recruiting and enlistment works.

    Presidential Order to Active Duty

    On July 13th, 2023, President Biden authorized the Pentagon to deploy up to 3,000 reservists to Europe in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

    This deployment is part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, which is aimed at deterring Russian aggression. The order allows the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Homeland Security to activate units and individual members of the Selected Reserve or any member of the Individual Ready Reserve as they deem necessary. The total number of members deployed at any one time should not exceed 3,000, of whom no more than 450 may be members of the Individual Ready Reserve.

    The official order from the White House confirms these details and specifies that the augmentation of active Armed Forces is necessary for the effective conduct of Operation Atlantic Resolve in and around the United States European Command’s area of responsibility.

    Individual Ready Reserve Service: Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard And Marine Corps

    Each branch of the military has different rules and requirements for new troops. The rules may vary across the services, but the basic concept for all IRR troops is Individual Ready Reserve service is intended to keep service members available for duty should they be needed, but without the requirement to do monthly drill weekends, annual training, etc.

    The Inactive Ready Reserve extends to the National Guard in the form of the Inactive National Guard (ING), and while it may be called by a slightly different name, ING is similar to IRR and serves the same purposes.

    Inactive Ready Reserve For United States Marines

    According to the Marine Corps Reserve official website, “the majority of Marines” serving in the IRR are former active duty members who did not complete their military service obligation (MSO) but have finished “their initial contractual period of active duty.” There are also Marines who are in the status of having finished the MSO but choose to remain on IRR status.

    For Marines, those on IRR status are not paid, they do not drill or train except for “periodic muster activities” and remain inactive until mobilized by presidential order. IRR Marines retain certain benefits including:

    According to the Marine Corps Reserve official website, Marines who serve on IRR status may be entitled to pay and benefits if they volunteer for “specific types of active duty”.

    Inactive Ready Reserve For The Navy

    The Individual Ready Reserve for the Navy is made up of those who still must meet their MSO obligation “incurred via contract” and those who have met MSO requirements but volunteer to serve in IRR status. The Navy has issued policy changes including the following for those who seek to remain on Individual Ready Reserve status once the MSO has been fulfilled.

    According to

    “Continued service in the IRR after military service obligation (MSO) has been fulfilled will not normally be permitted.”

    The caveat here being “will not normally be permitted;” those who wish to extend their IRR service should look into what circumstances may warrant an exception to that policy.

    Navy IRR members are subject to annual screening and a yearly muster when required. In past years the muster has been accomplished online, but more recent changes have the in-person IRR muster brought back until further notice where required. Navy IRR members are required to maintain Navy fitness standards, report any changes of address, and reply to all IRR official communications sent to them.

    Inactive Ready Reserve For The Army

    The Army’s IRR is made up of “trained individuals who have previously served in the Active Army or Selected Reserve” and who need to meet their MSO commitment. Army troops who have completed the MSO requirement can elect to remain on IRR status if they are eligible. The Army Reserve official website lists the following requirements and considerations for those who wish to serve in IRR status:

    • Each IRR soldier must maintain current contact information
    • IRR soldiers are required to muster when ordered
    • IRR troops must complete annual readiness screenings
    • IRR troops may be mobilized during a national crisis such as the War on Terror

    Individual Ready Reserve Duty For The Air Force

    The definition and requirements of Air Force IRR service are similar to the other branches-according to the Air Force official website, “Once an Airman has separated, they will be entered into one of two categories of the Individual Ready Reserve; the nonparticipating IRR and the participating IRR.”

    Nonparticipating IRR troops do not report to a unit, do not draw pay, and do not earn points. Participating IRR members are assigned to an Air Force unit and earn points toward retirement.

    Air Force IRR members may be subject to muster requirements, may be called back to active duty “in the event of a national emergency or peacetime screening,” and like the other branches, the IRR member must keep his or her command updated with the latest contact information, medical status changes, and related information.

    Air Force IRR muster rules include required attendance at musters, “which are held multiple times per year at locations throughout the country.”

    The Air Force offers something known as the Career Intermission Program (CIP), which is described as a “one-time temporary transition from active duty to the Individual Ready Reserve” effective for one year at a minimum and cannot be longer than three years. It offers airmen “a mechanism for seamless return to pre-CIP active-duty status.”

    This program is designed to help those who need to manage “short-term conflicts” between life issues and military service.

    Individual Ready Reserve Duty For The Coast Guard

    The setup of the Coast Guard IRR program is similar to those run by other branches of the military. Coast Guard IRR service is for those who have either not completed the MSO or choose to serve on IRR status after meeting their obligation. Like the other branches of the military, Coast Guard requirements for IRR include maintaining military fitness standards, staying current on address and contact information, responding to official correspondence, etc.

    Coast Guard members on IRR may be required to be screened annually, but there is no mandatory weigh-in required. That said, IRR members are reminded that they may be subject to weigh-ins for other duty-related purposes and are required to maintain fitness standards accordingly.

    Coast Guard IRR members may be permitted to do certain unpaid duty “for retirement point credit only (no pay),” according to the Coast Guard official site. This practice, known as “drilling for points,” requires approval “prior to an IRR member drilling for points or performing any other duty.”

    Coast Guard members who elect to serve on IRR status are also warned that failure to maintain standards or adhere to the program’s contract requirements may be subject to transfer to the Standby Reserve program instead. Those serving on the Standby Reserve program in the Coast Guard are considered inactive.

    See What You Qualify For

    Select a VA Home Loan Option to Continue:

    Home Purchase
    Home Refinance
    Cash-Out Refinance
    Explore My Options
    Get Started

    Get More Information About Joining The IRR

    No matter which branch of the service you are in, if you want to consider serving in IRR status, discuss your military career options with your Military Personnel Flight, First Sergeant, Command Sergeant Major, Detailer, Human Resources Office, or Unit Orderly Room.

    Written by Team