Choosing to serve in the Army Reserves allows a person to serve her country while maintaining the comforts of a civilian lifestyle. Reservists put in one weekend a month and two weeks of training every year with their companies, and return to their families and civilian employment in between these times. However, a reservist can be "activated" at any time the government deems it necessary. This means a reservist is converted to a full-time, active duty soldier and may be sent overseas.
Active commitments to the Army Reserve last from three to six years, says the U.S. Army. Yet anyone signing on the dotted line with the military is guaranteeing Uncle Sam that she will give eight years of her life. Part of that time is spent in active duty while the remaining time is spent in the Individual Ready Reserves. The IRR is a pool of personnel made up of those who are still serving out their enlisted time and those who have been discharged but still fulfilling the eight-year contract. The Army uses the IRR for backup soldiers in times of need.
Public law has a provision called the Presidential Reserve Call up Authority, says GlobalSecurity.org. PRCA gives the President carte blanche to activate any reservist or IRR member of the Army as he sees fit, without the need to declare a national emergency or war. Reservists who are activated may be sent to a territory within the U.S. or deployed abroad. Deployment doesn't necessarily mean a reservist is sent to a hostile territory or a war zone; on the contrary, they are often called on to assist victims of natural disasters.
As an activated reservist, you're given the maximum allowable time to ready yourself and your family for deployment, says Military.com. How much time depends on the nature of the deployment. In matters of serious emergency, very short notice might be necessary. First you get an alert calling you to active duty. After reporting to your home base on the date required, you're be sent to a mobilization station and given final preparatory training before you're deployed to your destination. The length of deployment depends on the nature of your assignment. You may only assist for as long as necessary, or you may have to serve the maximum of two years.
Reservists have civilian jobs and insurance, and a call to active duty complicates things. However, the government makes provisions for these Army members and binds employers to retaining activated reservists' positions without punishing them when called to duty. If you're deployed for longer than 30 days, you have the option of switching yourself and your family members to military health insurance, or you may choose another insurance company. If you do choose military insurance, you're still allowed to pick up your employer's insurance without a lapse. The exception is if you become ill or receive an injury during deployment, then the military insurance continues to cover you until you recover. While deployed, you are paid full wages at your current rank and are entitled to the same special pay, incentives and family separation bonuses as any other active Army soldier.
Brooke Julia has been a writer since 2009. Her work has been featured in regional magazines, including "She" and "Hagerstown Magazine," as well as national magazines, including "Pregnancy & Newborn" and "Fit Pregnancy."