What is the Ready Reserve?

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  • Written By: Nicholas K.
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 15 November 2019
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The Ready Reserve is a component of the U.S. military that keeps experienced personnel on alert for mobilization. Members of the Ready Reserve are assigned to the Selected Reserve or the Individual Ready Reserve. U.S. law limits the length of service and number of reservists available for call up. These limits also apply to the benefits and pay grade for reservists. Ready Reserve officers and enlistees can, however, apply for delays, deferments, and exemptions if selected for service.

The U.S. Armed Forces organizes personnel into the Selected Reserve and Individual Ready Reserve depending on future needs. Military personnel in the Selected Reserve are considered active duty and prepared for immediate mobilization by the president. These reservists take part in regular drills and receive pay commensurate with their service time. The Individual Ready Reserve deactivates soldiers but allows for mobilization in case of serious personnel needs. Both reserve sections are used to fill personnel needs in the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines.


Members of these reserve forces are deployed by the Presidential Reserve Call-up Authority. This authority can only activate 200,000 Selected Reserve members at the same time to fill personnel needs in the field. The president can select up to 30,000 members of the Individual Ready Reserve per authorization. These reservists are limited by federal law to 400 days of service before returning to reserve status. The U.S. Armed Forces can utilize reservists until they have met their minimum duty commitments or have been discharged.

Benefits packages for reservations are often adapted based on activation status. Reservists may be eligible for their full pay rates when called into active duty. These payments may be reduced for stateside service and short stints in non-combat situations. The Ready Reserve does not cover medical care at Veterans Administration hospitals. This policy may, however, be adjusted for soldiers who serve in high-risk areas for extended periods of time.

Every reservist must pass medical and fitness tests after being activated. U.S. law, however, also allows military reserve personnel to appeal to a board of review for delays, deferments, and exemptions prior to deployment. The board may allow for delayed service of up to six months for soldiers caring for ill family members or for other family-related issues. Reservists may be able to defer activation for extended periods to complete their college degree. The U.S. Armed Forces also allows for exemptions if soldiers are unable to complete their service due to religious objections to combat service.


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