The U.S. Army offers a variety of active duty enlistment terms to suit just about anyone's career ambitions. Maybe you want to see if you like the Army enough to make it a career, or maybe you just want the experience of serving your country before moving on to the next phase of your life. Either way, the Army's got you covered. There are also opportunities with the Army Reserve if you'd rather treat it like a part-time job. Regardless of your active enlistment length, it is important to understand that there is a basic military obligation that applies to everyone in all branches of the military.
Full Military Obligation
No matter how long your active duty assignment is with the Army, you must agree to an eight-year obligation. This term is divided between active enlistment, when you're actually working for the Army; and Individual Ready Reserves (IRR), when you're placed on standby status in case of an emergency. It's possible that while on IRR you will never be called to duty. However, in times of war or national emergency, you might be asked to put your uniform back on again.
Active Enlistment Lengths
Active duty in the Army is similar to working at a full-time civilian job. As of 2013, active enlistment lengths with the Army range from two to six years, though sometimes this changes due to Army needs. For example, a 15-month contract was offered in 2005 to attract new recruits when enlistments were on the decline. Whatever your enlistment length, you might be deployed on a mission. Deployments usually last one year, with a two-week break after six months.
When you choose to support the Army by enlisting in the Reserve, you're committing to serving one weekend a month, two weeks a year during your enlistment while always being ready to flip over to full-time service in times of need. Reserve soldiers benefit from being able to lead a normal civilian life while serving their country part-time and earning extra money. Enlistment lengths are either three or six years. While primarily viewed as a part-time obligation, Reservists may be deployed for up to 400 days in an emergency. Reservists and their families are compensated the same as full-time soldiers during these times.
Individual Ready Reserve
Once your active military obligation is over, you're placed in IRR. During times of crisis you may be activated, or called up to serve the Army full-time. You will typically have 30 days from the date of the call-up to take care of your personal affairs. You might be ordered to a post on U.S. soil or be sent abroad. Your IRR length is limited to a two-year maximum, after which you're allowed to return home.
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