This article has become incredibly popular. It was written six years ago at the start of my reserve career. Since then, I’ve had an amazing fun, rewarding and high-impact career. First, I’ve had amazing bosses, Shawn Barnes and Tim Kelly, who are both amazing leaders but understood the difficulty of balancing my day job with a fast paced reserve commitment. They have become both good friends and mentors. Second, as I’ve come to know the system, the AF reserve community can be both supportive and helpful. In any case, don’t let the post below cloud your view of the program. I love the reserves and would recommend it to anyone who wants to keep making a difference while pursuing opportunities outside of active duty. Third, the reserves have given me opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I’ve been able to more than double my impact on the DoD as a civilian and reserve member.
From what I hear the onboarding process is much more streamlined now. In 2014, the IMA program management transitioned to Headquarters Individual Reservist Readiness and Integration Organization (HQ RIO), a new organization focused on streamlining and optimizing the program. The HQ RIO staff acts as an advocate for the IMA program at higher headquarters and is focused on process improvements to enhance the IMA experience. Subordinate to HQ RIO there are seven detachments and their eight operating locations, which are directly responsible for facilitating and meeting the individual needs of the IMAs assigned to them. These folks are good people and work with you to avoid situations like the one I describe below.
If you’re thinking about becoming an IMA, go ahead and visit www.arpc.afrc.af.mil/home/hqrio.aspx. Also, let me know if I can help in any way: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ve had a rough start to my life as a reservist in the Air Force.
It was tough to find time to learn a new bureaucracy. Long and busy workdays in the Pentagon don’t leave free time to work this and as a reservist my first lesson is that you are on your own. Period. No one is looking out for you. To any potential reservist, you need to acknowledge this and repeat it to yourself. This was a shock for someone whose basic model was to work really hard, focus on my job–not myself, and watch good stuff happen. Unlike the active duty military where you are told what you have to do administratively and basically just have to hang on to whatever speed they put the treadmill on, reserve duty is like finding your way to the lost temple in the middle of a thick jungle. This article is meant to help some future IMA find their way a little more easily. Since we IMA’s have to learn a new bureaucracy, we should at least help each other out.
My history up to this point is that my Pentagon reserve recruiter was very nice and made the system sound wonderful. She took my resume and was going to line up an excellent job for me. I made it very clear I wanted to participate in the reserves as an IMA and sent her everything she requested. It seemed like there were folks to help make the transition easier and I rushed forward with the knowledge that this process was going in the right direction.
But months passed and I didn’t hear from her and my voice mails went unanswered. I wasn’t too worried since a friend from my current office had taken a program management job at the Air Force Research Lab and she told me she wanted to hire me to support her. Great. It was a perfect fit for my skill set, she just needed to get the position created and funded. I put together a resume and sent it her way.
After almost a year of waiting for that to happen, I started to get nervous. She kept hitting bureaucratic barriers to getting a position. (A position was always one meeting away.) However, at the last minute her husband, also an Air Force officer, needed help starting up a new program and he had a number of positions he could hire against. He approached me with a plan to hire me to help his program and he would “loan” me to his wife. He is a good friend with an exciting program and it sounded like a perfect solution.
We tried to make it happen, but despite stating that I wanted to work as a reservist at every opportunity during my outprocessing, my assignment orders said DISCHARGE, not “RELEASE FROM ACTIVE DUTY/TRANSFERS TO RESAF”. I didn’t know to check this box, which was my bad. But I was frustrated no-one asked and nothing I was given told me to check this. It would have been helpful to have been asked or, better, the reserve recruiter could have told me to ensure my orders released me to transfer to RESAF.
Regardless, this made things complicated as I got close to my one year point and I was told I was going to be discharged. It was incredibly confusing to figure out who I should talk to. The reserve recruiter had moved on and her replacement informed me that she couldn’t help me since she was an “in-service” recruiter and only could talk to active duty members. She got me in touch with the Officer Accession Recruiter for the Pentagon, who was at Andrews in Maryland.
I called her on June 25, 2010 (August 8, 2009 was my date of separation so I was getting nervous). She called me back three days later and told me I had been “scrolled” (a new term for me that I still can’t define) and she confirmed I was going to be dis-enrolled unless we did some crazy bureaucratic maneuvering. I couldn’t figure out what I was going to be dis-enrolled from, but she told me it meant that I would lose my commission and would have to re-apply. Since I work in the Pentagon, but live in Virginia, she told me she couldn’t help me and that I had to work with a officer accessions recruiter from Richmond, VA–over 100 miles away! I called and emailed him right away (on 6/28). After 3 or 4 more phone calls, 36 precious days later, I had only gotten one phone call on my voicemail from him.
In desperation, I called back to the physically closest recruiter at Andrews who agreed to be helpful (“this is outside my job . . .”) and get me back to S7 status (anyone know what that is?) so I could get the process moving. She told me I needed to take an oath of office immediately to get into the reserves (a form AF133). I quickly found a flag and had a friend swear me in and sent the form to the recruiter at Andrews.
The following email was sent to ARPC/DPAAA:
As per our brief conversation, Mrs xxx confirmed that Maj Booher has been previously scroll approved and still authorized to complete a reserve oath within in his 12 month window. She requested that AF133 be dated for 4 Aug 2010 and once received ARPC/DPAAA will be able to update him back to S7-IRR status. Please see the attached AF133 and update accordingly.
Also note that Maj Booher is now working with recruiting to obtain a AFR position and transfer out of IRR and into a CAT B billet so anything you can do to ensure he is updated back to S7 status as soon as possible would be greatly appreciated. His original AF133 has been placed in snail mail and will arrive to you shortly.
Thank you so much for the short notice assistance!!!
Then, to the Virginia reserve recruiter (AFRC/RS) on 3 August:
Maj Booher has completed his AF133 (Attached) and it has been forwarded to ARPC/DPAAA for update back to S7-IRR status. Maj Booher has been interviewed and tentatively offered a IMA position out at WPAFB and needs recruiter assistance to proceed with his application. Please contact Maj Booher at your earliest convenience he is ready to proceed with processing.
That day, I finally heard back from the reserve recruiter in Virgina at 7:19 pm:
I apologize for not contacting you sooner. No excuse on my part. Would you be able to talk tomorrow afternoon? Please name the time and I will make it happen. We can discuss the next step. Yes, I would like the contact information for the gaining unit. Thank you. Have a good evening.
O.K. I was ready to get to work and the gaining unit wanted me. I sent him the contact information for the gaining unit. Then started sending him a ton of forms. He needed:
- DD 214
- Last 3 OPR’s
- copy of physical once it is accomplished.
Fortunately, I had scanned everything in and could get it to him quickly. The only complication was that I didn’t have an up to date physical. Since I wasn’t “in” the reserves, this was a really complicated bureaucratic catch-22. I couldn’t use a DoD medical facility, but I needed a DoD physical. I could get a recruiting physical (months away), but that didn’t work either since I had sworn an oath and was now a sweet S7-IRR. The Virginia recruiter told me to see if I could get a DoD doctor friend to give me a physical it would make the situation work out. I was able to beg/cajole my way into a doctor’s office and since I was still in the computer system, confuse enough admin people into processing the physical and administering a PHA. When I finally got to a doctor (someone who is allowed to think!), it was easy to lay out the situation and he gave me all the paperwork I needed, which I quickly sent to the Virginia recruiter.
After this, we sent maybe 20 emails back and forth, mostly me bugging him to get me “gained to file”. Finally, on 14 October, I got this email:
I found out that the reason that you were not gained on 1 Oct is due to 2 things. One, the folks in the assignments branch at ARPC are working at 50% manning right not and are about 30 days behind. Two, your file was turned into the wrong technician at ARPC. So, I confirmed with our liaison at ARPC that it is now turned into the correct technician. So, I will be checking every few days to see if they have projected you to your new assignment. I apologize for the delays, but it is not really in my hands at this point. All I can do is follow up. Please let me know if you have any other questions sir. I will be TDY all next week with limited phone and e-mail access. I hope that by the time I return you are all squared away.
OK, so I was getting close. I didn’t hear anything until 25 October until I got this email:
I just became aware that you are being reported in Air Force Fitness Management System (AFFMS) as being an IMA member for xxx. The report also show that you are due for a PFA and I can assist you in scheduling for this event. If this is an error please let me know.
Wow, so that is how you find out you have been gained to file. However, once I was gained to file life just started getting complicated. Neither supervisor knew the ropes and the administrative “support” started pelting me with emails demanding OPRs, feedbacks, PFA’s, orientations, etc. This was all couched in the language of the system I didn’t understand — all in a process I didn’t understand. For example, I didn’t know how to get an id card so I went to my local MPF and asked for one and they gave it to me with a “Maj” stamped on the front. That worked well, but it didn’t get any easier.
I started getting questions like this from my supervisor:
do you come with your own days or do you need mandays? I heard that all IMAs get about 30 days or more from a central pot to use thru year and that you only need mandays to go above that amount.
Answer: I don’t “need” mandays. I had an actual position so I just “need” individual training days (IDT’s) and my two week tour.
In this whole process, the only people with the corporate knowledge are existing IMA’s. Information comes in emails such as this one from a friend:
IDTs and the 2-week annual tour are centrally funded.
All mandays will need to come from [your supervisor]. Mandays also require a TDY fund cite. For locals, we get paid for driving one round trip for the entire tour (e.g. I’d get 20 miles for driving to work on day 1 and 20 miles for driving home on day 90). Locals get no per diem, but [I] would get per diem, hotel, travel, etc.
Below is what each IMA is required to do each year for the unit that owns his/her billet. Mandays can be done for any unit (apparently), whether or not they own the billet. IMAs may also do additional unpaid IDTs, but the unit that owns their billet must sign off.
Mandatory IMA participation:
|A|48 paid|2 weeks|
|B|24 paid|2 weeks|
|E|24 unpaid|2 weeks|
[My supervisor] may have the option to pay for [my] travel and hotel for the unpaid IDTs; I’m pretty sure it isn’t centrally funded. In general, the 24 IDTs will have to be done wherever [I could] do them for free. The 2-week tour includes travel and per diem from the central fund. [I] will be expected to do those at WPAFB.
Any mandays for any IMA are on top of the above requirements.
The 2-week tour and all mandays count as active duty time. IDTs do not.
O.K., that was helpful. But where do I do things like medical? Why was I getting emails saying I was late for my OPR, etc? Check out this one:
I am in the process of updating your records and changing your rater. However, you have a projected OPR C/O of 23 Mar 10 through Maj xxxx. Can you tell me the status of when this OPR will be closed? As soon as the 23 Mar OPR is closed out in MILPDS I will be able to update your information for your current IMA position.
What is the status of your 23 Mar 10 OPR? This is overdue and is affecting directorate staff meeting charts. Would you please check into this and let me know when it might be completed? Please send me a copy of the OPR when complete.
What? I haven’t started yet? Then, I get:
I am reviewing the IMA Readiness Roster. . .You are showing Red across the board. I just wanted to find out the status of your dental, RCPHA, Fitness, Immunizations and OPR.
Then, I was asked to provide:
- Duty Schedule (UTAPs â€“ IDT/Annual/MPA)
- Assignment Order
- SGLI (SGLV 8286) – ARMS
- vMPF Record Review RIP
- Point Credit Summary
- Form 40As / IMT 938s
- Fitness Test Results
- Family Care Determination Checklist
Status? Of what? What is an RCPHA? Sorry, but I didn’t know what SGLI form they wanted. Which page of the vMPF gave the record review? What was a Point Credit Summary? Form 40A, is that the same as an IMT 938? Where do I do my fitness test? I live in VA, but work at WPAFB, if I am overdue, do I need to fund my travel there to take a PT test? What travel gets funded? What is a Family Care determination checklist and where do I get this from? What is a vRED again? What the heck is UTAPs? You get the point.
All this is possible to find out, but I didn’t have the time to become a personnel expert. I could guess on all of this and send stuff over, but on what status should I be on as I train myself for all of this. I have to make phone calls, but I can’t do it from my day job. This might only be 5 hours of work, but it needed to be during the day.
The end result of all of this is that I ended up working 3 IDTs for my friend at AFRL, but my supervisor could never figure out how to give me credit for my IDTs (as of March 12th I still haven’t gotten credit). I never figured out where and how to get all the administrative stuff figured out. The difficulty of being shared, the logistical problems of an out of town initial assignment, and the administrative difficulties made the decision easier to take a local position which fit my skills well and had extensive experience integrating reservists. Wish me luck!
I’ll admit that I’m a an overworked Pentagon analyst who doesn’t have much time to master all of this during the day, but I hope I’ve had particularly bad luck getting everything started and my experience is out of the norm. Comments greatly appreciated.