GI Rights Hotline

Military Discharges and Military Counseling

Call 1-877-447-4487

Absences from the Reserves

Fact Sheet

After you read this fact sheet, please call the Hotline (877-447-4487) to talk over your options with a counselor.

Absences from the Reserves

There are many different kinds of duty to which a reservist might be ordered to appear, including active duty for training, drills, annual training, muster, and mobilization and deployment. Members of the national guard can also be ordered to duty in state emergencies without ever coming under orders from the federal government (that is, under Title 10, Armed Forces, of the US Code). GI Rights Hotline counselors are available for a free, confidential consultation on any of these issues.

Any reservist called to active duty under Title 10 U.S.C is subject to the UCMJ from the date that orders indicate they are to report for duty and any absence on or after that date is punishable by the UCMJ. Nevertheless, many absence offenses that could be punished under the UCMJ are never referred to court-martial or non judicial punishment. GI Rights Hotline counselors can help assess possible and likely consequences for absent reservists. There are some special categories mentioned below.

Special Note for Army or Air National Guard

The Army National Guard and the Air National Guard are under the jurisdiction of the particular state as well as the U.S. Military. Any absence offense or rule violation by a member of the national guard could subject that person to disciplinary action under state laws as well as potentially by U.S. Military judicial system. Different states vary significantly both in their particular rules and in their tendency to enforce those rules. It is recommended that members of the National Guard contact a GI Rights Network branch for more information regarding their particular state’s laws and practices.

Failure of an Enlisted Reservist to Report for Initial Training

An enlisted member of a reserve component who fails to report for initial training (meaning does not report to the MEPS on the date that they are scheduled to begin boot camp or basic training) is normally separated from the military with an entry level separation (ELS), provided they are no longer willing to report for a rescheduled date. The same applies to Army Reservists, including members of the Army National Guard, who fail to report for either phase I or phase II of a “split-option” initial training. See special note for information on possible additional penalties for members of the National Guard.

Missing Drills

A reservist could be subject to the UCMJ during inactive duty training (drill). However, cases of reservists being punished under the UCMJ for missing drills are rare to non existent. Members of the National Guard, while not subject to the UCMJ during drill, may face additional penalties from their particular state.

In normal drilling status Air and Army National Guard reservists are usually under Title 32 (National Guard), rather than Title 10 (Armed Forces) status. This leaves punishment for such offenses to the individual states. The rules for guard members missing drill and what can be done about it vary from state to state. In practice, punishments for missing a part or all of a weekend drill range from nothing, to not being paid, to having to make up the drill, and in some rare instances arrest and punishment. GI Rights Hotline Counselors can provide information regarding the rules and likely risks of punishment in different states.

Reservist Unsatisfactory Participation

Unexcused absence from an annual training or from nine or more training units in a one year period often results in a discharge from the reserve component for failing to meet the training requirements. Often the service of someone so discharged will be characterized as general under honorable conditions or under other than honorable conditions. GI Rights Hotline counselors are available to discuss this discharge and issues regarding missed drills. See special note for information on possible additional penalties for members of the National Guard.

Reasonable Commuting Distance

A reservist is not required to attend drills beyond a reasonable commuting distance as defined below. Anyone who feels their command is asking them to travel beyond the distances defined below can contact the GI Rights Hotline for more information.

Commuting Distance

The maximum distance a member of a Reserve component may be required to travel involuntarily between residence and IDT site. Allowed distances include:

A 100-mile radius of the IDT site or a distance that may be traveled by automobile under average conditions of traffic, weather, and roads in 3 hours. That applies only to those units that normally do four IDT sessions on 2 consecutive days and where Government meals and quarters are at the unit IDT site.

A 50-mile radius of the IDT site or a distance that may be traveled by an automobile under average conditions of traffic, weather, and roads in a 1 1/2-hour period, where Government meals and quarters are not at the unit IDT site.

Moving outside a reasonable commuting distance

When a reservist changes residence so that they are no longer within a reasonable commuting distance from the unit’s drill site there is normally an option of transfer to either another unit or to the individual ready reserve (IRR). GI Rights Hotline counselors are available to discuss options regarding this situation.

Reserves and Mobilization

While reservists in the military generally know that they may someday be called to active duty, many reservists are unsettled when the actual orders come. Some who became reservists after a period of active duty feel they have already “completed” their service. Others joined the reserves for extra income, job training, or college money, without ever really identifying with the active duty military. Each year hundreds of people contact the GI Rights Hotline looking for information about reservists and mobilization. These include active reservists from the different branches, members of the individual ready reserve (IRR), and members of different states’ Army and Air National Guard.

Often people find the status of reserve components confusing. The military maintains reserve components for the express purpose of having extra forces available for mobilization whenever it is believed that these extra forces would be useful. Title 10 of the USC allows the federal government (the President or Congress) to place on active duty reservists who are otherwise subject to Title 32 USC. In some situations (such as currently in the Army) such activation also allows different branches’ Stop Loss/Stop Move Orders to extend a GI’s end of service date beyond the contractual obligation. Although it can be waived, the 2008 Defense Authorization Act requires that mobilized reservists be given a minimum of 30 days advance notice. Being mobilized can bring differing levels of hardship to service members who might otherwise have their military experience compartmentalized into “one weekend a month,” an annual training, or in the case of IRR members at most an occasional muster. Receiving orders for mobilization to full time active duty often causes reservists to reexamine their relationship to the military. GI Rights Hotline counselors are available to provide a free, confidential consultation regarding the options for someone who is mobilized.

Rights of Mobilized Reservists

There are different rights that mobilized service members have under federal law, including the Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act, which can be discussed with GI Rights Hotline Counselors or Military Legal Counsel. These can include

  • Reduced interest rate and rate caps on loans, mortgage payments, and credit card debt;
  • Protection from automobile repossession;
  • Eviction protection and possible rent ceilings;
  • Delay of all civil court actions, such as bankruptcy, foreclosure or divorce proceedings;
  • Termination of leases (in some circumstances);
  • Delayed payment of taxes.

Other laws include The Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act, which protects reservists employed by US owned companies from losing their jobs based on membership in the military. It requires that employers give time off for drills and training as well as deployment. In addition, it requires that reservists who complete a deployment be given back their job with no loss of seniority or pay grade and with reinstated health insurance. Self-employed reservists can potentially suffer greater financial adversity in the event of deployment and could explore the possibility of a hardship discharge with a GI Rights Hotline Counselor.

Despite these special protections, being mobilized can cause serious complications for GIs. Many of the different discharges mentioned elsewhere in this site can help mobilized service members deal with the complications of being called to active duty. Family hardship and parenthood status, conscientious objection, medical issues, and sexual identity can all be avenues a reservist could use to avoid mobilization when applicable. Counselors are available to discuss any of these issues. Sometimes an activated reservist’s issues can even be resolved prior to the ordered date for mobilization so that the person can avoid having to report altogether. Members of the IRR can apply for a delay or exemption and may follow with an appeal if the first decision is unfavorable. GI Rights Hotline counselors can give information about contacting the military for these issues

Failing/Refusing to Report for Mobilization

Many reservists who call the GI Rights Hotline with orders for mobilization ask if all else fails what if they simply don’t report. While it is illegal for GI Rights Hotline counselors to encourage or assist someone in breaking the law, counselors are able to inform callers of the likely consequences of breaking the law. Under the UCMJ, a reservist under Title 10 who fails to report for active duty is subject to the following articles:

§886. ART. 86. ABSENCE WITHOUT LEAVE Any member of the armed forces who, without authority—
(1) fails to go to his appointed place of duty at the time prescribed;
(2) goes from that place; or
(3) absents himself or remains absent from his unit, organization, or place of duty at which he is required to be at the time prescribed;

shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.

§887. ART. 87. MISSING MOVEMENT

Any person subject to this chapter who through neglect or design misses the movement of a ship, aircraft, or unit with which he is required in the course of duty to move shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.

It is often the case that reservists who fail to report never go to trial (court-martial) and are instead usually punished with administrative separation with service characterized as “under other than honorable.” Nevertheless situations can vary a great deal and it is recommended that anyone considering or already in this situation contact the GI Rights Hotline for a free, confidential consultation.

The Army IRR

The Army has said that individuals in the IRR who fail to report on mobilization orders face administrative separation which is an alternative to court-martial. To date the Army has not been issuing warrants for the arrest of IRR soldiers who fail to report.

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