IRR Military Retirement

It’s possible to earn retirement points in the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) but it isn’t easy. We’ll cover how earning points in the IRR works and discuss the differences between the IRR and Retired Reserve.
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Table of Contents
  1. Does IRR time count towards retirement?
  2. How to Earn Retirement Points in the IRR
  3. Reader Question: Can I get promoted in the IRR?
  4. Retired Reserve vs. IRR
    1. Dual Status in the Reserves 
    2. In the Reserves, Longevity Accrues During “Retired Awaiting Pay”
    3. You Don’t Get Tricare in the IRR
  5. Reader Question: Is retirement from the IRR worth it? 

When you leave active duty, you may have the option of transferring into the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR). The IRR provides the military with a source of trained servicemembers who are on call if the military needs to expand rapidly. Most servicemembers remain in the IRR while completing their initial Military Service Obligation (MSO) and then separate.

In some cases, members decide to remain in the IRR beyond their MSO and achieve the last points needed to retire from the Guard or Reserves.

Achieving military retirement as an IRR member can be complex, and understanding how to earn retirement points is crucial. This guide offers detailed insights and tips to help you achieve your retirement benefits through effective management of IRR point-earning opportunities.

Let’s dive in. 

Does IRR time count towards retirement?

Yes, IRR time counts towards retirement from the Guard or Reserves; however, you have fewer opportunities to earn points than Reservists on active or drilling duty. Additionally, the rules for how IRR time counts towards retirement can vary depending on your branch of service and specific circumstances. 

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How to Earn Retirement Points in the IRR

You need to accumulate 20 “good years” of service to receive a Reserve pension. Simply put, a “good year” is a qualifying year in which you earn at least 50 points for retirement. 

IRR point earning opportunities vary by branch, and all the opportunities you have are unpaid. In other words, in the IRR, you are drilling for points only. 

In general, you can earn points in the IRR by doing the following: 

  • Inactive Duty Training (IDT) in a non-pay training status
  • Active Duty for Special Work (ADSW)
  • Active Duty for Training (ADT)
  • Completing correspondence courses
  • Attending annual musters

In the IRR, you automatically earn 15 participation points each year. To successfully earn your participation points, you must attend the annual muster, complete a yearly readiness screening and respond to all official military correspondence. Failure to do any of these tasks can affect your point earning and benefits. 

On top of that, you can earn one point a day for any active duty assignment and one point for each 4-hour period of IDT completed. For IDT, you can earn a maximum of 2 points per day. 

You can apply for ADSW and ADT with a DA Form 1058. Most IRR members earn points by completing correspondence courses, but they are not always easy to come by and you may be required to drive for some of those opportunities. 

Keep in mind that distance learning opportunities also vary by military service.

Reader Question: Can I get promoted in the IRR?

An important thing to consider is whether you can be promoted in the IRR. Servicemembers have to serve in a pay grade for a certain amount of time before they can be promoted or retire at that grade. This is known as Time in Grade (TIG), and it only counts toward promotion requirements when you earn a good year. 

Officers in the pay grades of O-1 through O-3 need to serve at least six months in that grade for retirement. On the other hand, some officers have to serve a requirement of 3 years in grade.  

Let’s review a reader question on the topic to give you an idea of how this could work out in real-time. 

A reader writes:

Hello sir! I’m an O-5 (USNR) with 19 years and I stumbled upon your website/blog. All I can say is AWESOME! You put things in plain English when many other websites and instructions either “beat around the bush” or use vernacular that usually leads to more questions! BZ! I was hoping you could answer one question for me. Since I am at 19 years in the Navy (seven years active / 12 years Reserve) – I am trying to weigh my options when I go over 20.

After I hit 20, if I am on the O-6 promotion list and then immediately choose to transfer to the IRR, would I be able to retire as a CAPT? Would I have to serve as a CAPT for at least three years in the IRR and if I earn enough points for a good year, does that mean I could eventually “retire awaiting pay” and retire as an O-6? I guess that was a long-winded way of asking: can you be promoted to O-6 in the IRR and earn good years in the IRR?


The answer to your question is that while it’s possible for officers to be eligible for promotion in the IRR, it’s rare. There are too many Reservists on mobilization and drilling status that typically get precedence for promotion. It would be better to keep drilling (or mobilizing) at least until you reach 20 years and get selected for O-6. 

Once you’re selected for O-6, you can transfer to the IRR whenever you want (even before you’re formally promoted.) O-6s usually need three years to meet TIG requirements, but you can also request a waiver to reduce the TIG requirement to two years. That’s routinely approved for most retirements and would almost certainly be approved for retirement from the IRR during a drawdown.

If you decide to go to the IRR, you can earn points toward retirement by taking correspondence courses, signing up for special duty (funeral detail), or by other individual arrangements with your chain of command. (You may also want to see if you can earn points by serving as a U.S. Naval Academy Blue & Gold Officer.) 

Just keep in mind that Time in Grade only counts when you earn a good year.

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Retired Reserve vs. IRR

The “Retired Reserve” is another term used for gray area retirement, which refers to Reserve members who have achieved eligibility for National Guard/Reserve retirement but haven’t yet reached age 60. The Retired Reserve is not the same as the Individual Ready Reserve. 

Let’s take a look at how the Retired Reserve compares to the IRR: 

Retired ReserveIndividual Ready Reserve
Training Members do not participate in regular training but can be recalled to active duty in times of war or national emergency. Members do not participate in regular training but can be recalled to active duty during war or national emergency. 
Subject to RecallRetired Reserve would typically be called to duty after IRR members.IRR would likely be called to duty before the Retired Reserve.
Point AccrualMembers no longer earn points, but seniority within grade accrues. Members can still accumulate points toward retirement.
Access to HealthcareRetired Reserve members have access to Tricare Retired Reserve. IRR members do not qualify for military health benefits unless activated. 
Access to Base BenefitsCommissary, Exchange, Travel and Lodging, Morale, Wealthfare and Recreation (MWR)Commissary, Exchange, Travel and Lodging, MWR 

Leaving active duty or Reserve status to join the IRR is a big decision, and it may not be easy (or possible) to revert to your prior duty status.

Here are a few things you should consider before deciding between the IRR and the Retired Reserve. 

Dual Status in the Reserves 

There are many opportunities for dual status in the Guard and Reserves, including dual status military technician status. A dual status member often refers to a service member who holds both a civilian position and a military position within the National Guard or Reserve forces. This term is most commonly used to describe Reserve Component technicians who are federal civilian employees required to maintain membership in the Reserve Component as a condition of their employment.

An example of a dual status technician could be an aircraft mechanic who works as a Title 32 Technician during the week and serves as a Guardsman or Reservist in a part-time military status.

Transitioning into a dual status military technician job may also allow you to buy back your military service credits, which would accelerate your civilian retirement while still maintaining your Reserve pension. It’s the best of both worlds.

In the Reserves, Longevity Accrues During “Retired Awaiting Pay”

A great advantage of retiring from the Reserves is that if you qualify for gray area retirement, your seniority in that grade will continue to accrue as if you were on active duty.

When your Reserve or Guard pension starts, it’s calculated using the longevity that would have accrued in your rank if you had been on active duty between the time you filed for “retired awaiting pay” and the time your pension started.

Note the phrase “retired awaiting pay.” It means you’ve transferred to the Retired Reserve until your pension starts. That’s the normal retirement status for over 99% of Guard and Reserve retirees. That status is why your rank’s longevity continues to accrue in “retired awaiting pay” status, and it’s the reason that your pension uses the pay tables in effect when your pension starts. 

Members who are “retired awaiting pay” are subject to recall in a national emergency, but this is rare. Members can avoid being subject to recall by requesting a discharge instead of transferring to the Retired Reserve. However, when your pension starts (normally at age 60), it would be calculated at the tables in effect on the date of your discharge, and it would be calculated at your longevity at discharge. In other words, your pension would have been frozen at the date you retired (discharged) and not boosted for inflation or longevity.

You Don’t Get Tricare in the IRR

When you’re a drilling Reserve/Guard member, you’re eligible for Tricare Reserve Select (TRS) but if you transfer to the IRR—even for a single day— you lose your Tricare health coverage. 

If you’re deciding between the Retired Reserve and the IRR you should know that the Retired Reserve has access to the Tricare Retired Reserve (TRR) plan, but the monthly premiums are much more expensive than TRS. 

You may be able to find equivalent coverage through a Marketplace (Affordable Care Act) plan, but it will likely be more expensive than TRS or have much higher deductibles. 

Healthcare should not be the only reason that you stay in a drill billet, but if you’re going to leave that billet, then you should make sure you have another source of health insurance.

Reader Question: Is retirement from the IRR worth it? 

A National Guard member emailed and asked:

sitting at nearly a decade in the Army National Guard with around 1900 retirement points. I have a few months left before deciding to resign, transfer to the IRR, or stay in a drill billet.

Is it worth staying in the IRR for another 10 years to earn a military retirement?

Maybe the question is simpler than I’m making it. But for this to work, I would need 50 retirement points a year for the next 10 years, something that could be accomplished through 150 hours of distance learning annually.

10 years * 50 points/year = 500 points

500 points * 3 hours DL/point = 1500 hours of distance learning in the next 10 years.

This is a great question. For starters, you’ll be relieved to learn that you’re awarded an automatic 15 “participation points” per year in the IRR. So technically, you’ll only need to earn 35 points to get a good year.

Retiring from the IRR can happen. But it isn’t easy. In the best-case scenario, you will only need to complete a couple of years in order to earn your retirement from the IRR, but you will need to aggressively chase your points.

As an IRR member, no one will follow up with you to ensure you meet your goals. You become your only advocate and cheerleader, and earning a good year becomes your responsibility to yourself. Most servicemembers find it easier to earn a good year while still affiliated with a drilling Guard or Reserve unit, as a member of the Individual Mobilized Augmentee (IMA), a special section of the Reserves.

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  1. Thomas Terry says

    Hi. I did one year in the army then enter the IRR and then joined the Navy as active Duty and received an honorable discharge from the army after about 5 years of IRR army service while still being in the Navy. I did 11 years in the Navy and then about 4 years Federal government. At times in the Navy and Army my pay was changed from active duty e-5 pay to army reserve pay which was a pain. I was also charged for some kind of reserve insurance once that they took out of my Navy active duty pay. Can any of this time be used for retirement?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Thomas, this is an unusual situation. The Army should have discharged you from the IRR when you joined the Navy. I don’t think someone can simultaneously be in two different statuses in separate military branches. So, you may need to work with the Army and Navy to correct your military service records.

      Regarding retirement—you should be able to buy back your military service credits if you still serve in the federal government. This will enhance your civil service retirement pay. However, it doesn’t sound like you will have enough military service to qualify for military retirement. You need 20 good years to qualify for military retirement. It sounds like you have about 12 good years of service (1 from the Army and 11 from the Navy). You may have additional points from your years in the IRR, but you need at least 50 points to qualify for a good year. IRR service is 15 points per year. You need to have additional service to earn 50 points and earn a good year in the IRR (this could be from musters, correspondence courses, honor guard service, or other qualifying activities).

      Best wishes!

  2. Joe P says

    Hello. I know that Soldiers that go into the IRR will still accumulate 15 membership points. But if a Soldier does 20 years and goes into the retired reserves (gray area), will they be accumulating 15 membership points as well?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hi Joe, members of the retired Guard or reserves do not normally continue to earn retirement points unless they have been approved to serve while retired. This can happen, but it’s very rare and requires individual approval, which is usually only granted for specific skillsets, AFSCs, MOSs, Ratings, etc.

  3. Mac says

    Hello Sir.

    Thank you for the good read and your continued service.
    This is my situation.
    I ets’d out the Army this passed June from active duty. I was offered a medical discharge 20 days before my ets date. But I was too close to my date that I didn’t get the medical discharge. While in IRR, would I be able to get a medical discharge? I only have about 7 months left on IRR and someone told me that I could still fight it. But also, I am getting 80% disability. I haven’t been contacted by anyone yet for IRR and I don’t have orders to muster. So I’m at a lost. Have you heard of someone doing a medical discharge from IRR?

  4. austinliedeckes says

    I have 16 years all in Army National Guard. I am wanting to go into the IRR and not drill for the remainder of my four years in order to get to my 20 years. I was told by the readiness staff that I could not do that.

    • Joe says

      Why not check with IRR directly. I was in the IRR ( Air National Guard ) attached to Denver Co. Air Force Reserve Center. I was in the Participating IRR, then went into a non participating IRR, I was told I would still get my membership points ( 15 points yearly ) but did not receive them for credit.

      You may have to go in a participating status to continue. All you need is the minimum 50 points to get a good year. I was using Form 40 which gave me 2 points for each day of participation.

      Again I would contact IRR directly. There is also another program called IMA ( Individual Mobility Augmentee ) which is a paid position.

      • Doug Nordman says

        As Joe recommends, Austin, I’d talk with your National Guard support center about the best way for you to earn four good years (at least 35 points per year from you plus the Guard’s 15 participation points) in the IRR.

        It’s hard to patch together the activities for your point count but it can be managed with persistence and research.

        Note that once you’re out of a drill billet, you’ll lose your eligibility for Tricare Reserve Select. You’ll have to buy your own health insurance through a state or federal exchange, or find an employer plan.

  5. Mike says

    Sir, thanks for all that you are doing. This website is more help than MPF.

    I just got 20 good years. I accured the 50 points I need for the last good year. My understanding is that I still need to have 20 years of time from when I joined the military to retire. Since I earned all the 50 points at the beginning of my last good year can I ghost the military till the 20 years of time point? What about if the military transfers me to non participating IRR? If they put me in NPIRR status with no points no pay can I still retire at the 20 years of time point? Could you point me in the direction of the regulations this would fall under? Thanks again for the help.

    • Doug Nordman says

      You’re welcome, Mike, I’m glad it’s helping!

      You need 20 good years to file for retired awaiting pay, and you’ll know that your service agrees with your numbers when you receive your Notice Of Eligibility. Depending on how backlogged they are with verifying the data and issuing NOEs, that might happen before or after the anniversary date of reaching 20 years.

      Once you’ve acquired your points, you might still have other unit requirements to earn the good year: two weeks of active duty, completion of required annual training, medical/dental updates, and possibly drill weekends. Although these are largely administrative requirements beyond points, and might be waived by the unit, you’ll still need to comply with your command’s requirements in order to have them put the 20th good year in the database.

      Once you have your NOE, you’re eligible to file for retired awaiting pay. After you’ve filed your request, you could transfer to the IRR. (I would not go to the IRR until you have your NOE, and maybe not even until your retirement request has been endorsed/submitted.) Your service may also offer a six-month Authorized Absence during your career, where you would not be required to muster for drill weekends.

      You can check these requirements in your service’s instructions for the training & administration of Reserves (or Guard). You can read the applicable paragraphs (for your rank and service) in the Financial Management Regulation Volume 7B chapters 1 and 3:
      The backs of those chapters also link their paragraphs to the source sections of federal law.

  6. David Lloyd says

    Thank you for your very informative article. I’m a USAR O-4 (prior NCO) who has been doing COADOS (active) tours since 2013. I recently transferred into the IRR, as it was easier for them to approve my COADOS orders. I have about 23 good years (combined active and reserve), and am considering retiring. My question is, how does that work for someone in the IRR? Do I just de facto retire by not taking any more assignments? Or is there something official that I need to do to be out completely? I ask because in order to get a retirement LOM, it says that retirement orders need to have been cut.

    • Doug Nordman says

      You’re welcome, David, I’m glad it’s helping!

      Before you start the retirement process you’ll want to receive your Notice Of Eligibility and check that it has an accurate record of your good years & points. Ideally you receive a NOE as soon as you reach 20 good years, but the system is frequently backlogged.

      After you have your NOE it’s as simple as filing your request to “retire awaiting pay” up through your chain of command. Once that’s approved then you’re officially in the gray area and waiting to apply for your pension.

      In very general terms, you’ll apply for your pension about 6-12 months before turning 60 years old. You might be eligible to start your Reserve pension three months earlier for every 90 days that you’ve been mobilized to deploy to a combat zone.

  7. Sean says

    Hey Doug, I have a question about retiring from the IRR. I was recently told by a former AD officer, now in the IRR, that she will be able to finish out her 20 years (she did 10 active) in the IRR and, at age 60, will start collecting a military pension based on the points she’s accumulated, just like a Reserve/Guard pension… How is this possible? Is she mistaken? Thanks!

    • Doug Nordman says

      Sean, the only way I’m aware of to earn a Reserve pension is to accumulate 20 good years. She had 10-11 good years when she was on active duty (depending on how far she stayed past her 10-year point). After that she’d need another 9-10 good years, which means earning at least 35 points in the IRR each year.

      Possible, but not easy.

  8. Joel says

    I was prior service for 5 years active duty and completed 3 years of irr. A few years later i have joined the reserves in a different branch. Would I need justifiable reasons to transition over irr from my reserve unit or can i voluntarily do so?

    • Doug Nordman says

      Joel, you’d want both of your services to have your info and all of your points in your current database. Ideally this takes place when you join the different branch, but I’d check your records to be sure it’s correct.

  9. Jeff S says

    I put in 13 years, 10 years active and 3 reserve in the Navy, before having to hang it up due to demands of a business in 2006. Would it be at all possible for me to rejoin the IRR or even Reserves for 7 years at age 49 to earn points to get to a retirement?

    • Doug Nordman says

      Great question, Jeff, and the best approach is to talk with the Reserve recruiters. (Yeah, the ones in an office at your local strip mall.) I say “recruiters” because the age policies differ with every service. You’ll want to consider all of the Reserve services, including the Air National Guard and the National Guard.

      Don’t delay. You’ll almost certainly need an age waiver, and you may need additional waivers for other programs. In the Reserves/Guard recruiting process, these waivers can take months.

      I hope your plans work out– please keep us posted!

    • Joe M says

      When I was in the PIRR years ago, you where only allowed to be in that program for 3 years. Certainly the requirements could be different now. The form I used was AF form 40A credits you 2 points for each day your participating.

      You have to be proactive when submitting that form ( AF Form 40A ) for point credit, as I was given a site to track my points accumulation and a few times my points where not credited, basically fell through the cracks. I had to call them, and resubmit the form again. There is also the IMA which is a paid position, along with the active Guard and Reserves.

  10. Doug Nordman says

    Todd, you’d calculate that from the process described in the Financial Management Regulation (DoD 7000.14-R) Volume 7B Chapter 3:

    It’s also explained in detail in this post:
    The formula for a High Three Reserve pension is:
    (# points / 360) x 2.5% x [High Three average of monthly base pay]

    For the few remaining servicemembers on the Final Pay system (who entered the military before 8 September 1980) the pension is calculated from their highest monthly base pay. There’s no High Three average.

    For those who will retire under the Blended Retirement System, the percentage multiplier is 2.0% instead of 2.5%.

    When you’re retired awaiting pay then you’d use the High Three average of the O-4 pay tables up through the year in which you start your pension (as though you’d been on active duty the entire time). That means your actual pension would be calculated from your highest pay tables, which are probably the ones in effect during the 36 months just before beginning your pension.

    You can get an estimate of your pension in today’s dollars by assuming that your High Three average will be 97% of the current pay tables. (That 97% is based on recent military annual pay raises.) In your case with the highest 2020 O-4 pay at $8324.10, your Reserve pension will be roughly:
    (3999 / 360) x 2.5% x [$8324.10 x 97%] = $2242/month.

    Most servicemembers will start their pensions at age 60, but for service after 28 January 2008 it can be started three months earlier for every 90 days mobilized in a combat zone (mostly during a fiscal year) or for natural disasters and national emergencies. More details on an early Reserve pension are at this post:

  11. Doug Nordman says

    Thank you for pointing that out, Samantha, you’re absolutely right. The multiplier for the Blended Retirement System is 2.0%.

    The rest of the retirement calculations are correct for both BRS and legacy High Three.

    • Doug Nordman says

      Good question, Scott.

      You’d have to read the fine print in your commitment contract. Being in the IRR is normally satisfactory for longevity. If your E-7 commitment requires you to obtain points for a good year, though, then currently it’s nearly impossible to do that in the IRR.

      In addition, if you’re out of a drill billet for even one day, you’ll lose your eligibility for Tricare Reserve Select health insurance. Be very careful about depending only on the VA for your health insurance (without Tricare) for injuries or medical issues which are not service-related. Going to the IRR may not be the most financially beneficial move if you have to obtain other health insurance after losing TRS.

      The best way to estimate the amount of a future Reserve pension is to assume that it’s being paid today, and in today’s dollars. (You’ll also assume that your longevity in your retirement rank continues to accumulate through 2023, which means that you may be eligible for the maximum longevity pay at that retirement rank.) By estimating your pension in today’s dollars, you can easily compare your pension to your current expenses without having to make a bunch of further assumptions about inflation.

      While your deployments may mean that you’re eligible to start your pension at age 59.5, remember that Tricare health insurance will not kick in until age 60. You’ll still need to cover the six months with Tricare Retired Reserve insurance, or some other plan.

  12. Samantha says

    Are the retirement calculations above applicable under the BRS as well, or the hi-3 legacy only? I am an IMA with about 8 total good years so far (5 AD/3 Reserves) and trying to calculate my retirement but not a finding concrete answer as to whether my methods are accurate under the BRS, into which I’ve opted.

  13. scott says

    im a 56 old drill status guardsman in the air national guard i have my 20 yr letter and over 5000 points im also being promoted to E-7 where i had to sign a year comitment for promotion i also have a 90% va rateing from a finacial number point it’s not benificial to continue drilling if i transfer to the irr will that time count toward my one yr comitment so i will retire at the E-7 rank and current point value when i turn 591/2 which is when im eligible to start collecting retirement pay due to deployments i know in the irr i wont accumulate points just time which is fine with me i want the value of 2023 when i retire not the current value 2019

    • Doug Nordman says

      Tom, I’m a little confused by your chronology. Let me back up and try to understand the numbers.

      When you reach 20 good years among the services, then you’ll receive a Notice Of Eligibility confirming your good years and listing your points. However it’s quite common for the various service databases to not communicate with each other, so you’d want to make sure that the Army National Guard has all of your Air Force records and point counts (both active duty and Reserves).

      You can keep serving as long as you can get a billet (in any of the services), and if your performance is satisfactory then you can certainly go past 20 good years. You can also continue to apply to your federal civil service HR staff to buy your military service credit deposit.

      I’m not sure what you mean by “continuation of earning points” or “challenge lost points”. If there are errors or omissions from your point count then you’d have to submit copies of orders and DD-214s to your National Guard unit to correct the records.

      In the last few years it’s become very difficult to obtain points in the IRR. If you’ve submitted records for correspondence courses or funeral services then you’d have to follow up with your unit to make sure that those accomplishments were still good for points and credit toward a good year.

      We can continue the discussion on this post’s comments thread, of course, but you can also e-mail more details and questions to NordsNords at Gmail.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Tom, I am not aware of any means to challenge points that were not earned. But I would get a points summary statement prior to joining the Navy Reserves. You mentioned you had 24 years of service (7.7 + 12.3 + 4 = 24). Your comment states you only had 3 years that didn’t count. So I would get an official point statement from the Air Force and the Army National Guard, and make sure they are all accounted for in one place (whichever was your final branch of service). Make sure they have the point statements from the other branches/components. Then get a point summary. If you have 20 good years, then you don’t need any additional service time.

      Good luck!

  14. Doug Nordman says

    Great question, Adam!

    By Tricare’s rules, it’s immediate:
    “Your coverage automatically ends if you leave the Selected Reserve or lose eligibility for any other reason. You may purchase TRICARE Reserve Select again if you re-qualify.”
    It may take Tricare a few weeks to process a claim, but they’ll eventually check a servicemember’s drill status and deny the claim if they were in the IRR on the date that they used TRS.

    Full info on ending TRS coverage is at this Tricare link:

  15. Adam McCaffrey says

    How soon after going IRR do you lose TRICARE coverage? Is there a grace period or is it immediate?
    Thank you

    • Tom says

      My last LES showed 24 years total service which included 7.7 years active duty Air Force, 12.3 reserves and 4 years Army National Guard. 3 of those years I went inactive while overseas in England during my wife’s active duty assignment (mobilized as IMA for a year right after 9/11) I went inactive in 2003 to finish school online because I thought my GI Bill was going to run out in 2006 (10 years after leaving active duty). I was never informed about continuation of earning points and now have 3 bad years. I could have a retirement but feel as though I was not properly informed. I am looking to enter Navy reserves to complete my time and/or soon to enter my 4th federal job and buy back my time. Is there any way to challenge lost points due to bad information or because of livings overseas as a spouse? Please advise. Thanks


      • Doug Nordman says

        Terence, after a 13-year break in service you’ll want to start with the military recruiter for your chosen service. (That could include National Guard as well as the other active-duty and Reserve services.) IRR is certainly one of the options but each service has their own policies.

        These days it’s also considered very difficult to earn points toward a good year in the IRR because many of the military correspondence courses are no longer eligible for points.

  16. Terence Brown says

    After separating in 06, can I now request to enter the IRR M., to accumulate points for retiring after 13 years of separation.

    • Joe M says

      I was in the PIRR for Three years then two years after that in a non PIRR, so what changed? Granted that was years ago. I was assigned to Denver Co. with the Air Force Reserves. Can’t you use form 40 which gives you two points for each day you put a uniform on. Is that form still used?

      The company I worked for gave me my 15 days a year for military service, I used Form 40 which gave me two points for one day of service and got 30 points, then the 15 membership points gives 45 how hard can it be to come up with 5 more points, even without PME courses?

  17. Doug Nordman says

    Ryan, you could absolutely move to the IRR to do your voc rehab. You’d also free up your current billet for someone else, although your unit might still have your name in their database for tracking your IRR status.

    The issue is whether you’d be able to return to drill status and finish your 20 good years. These days it’s nearly impossible to earn a good year in the IRR because so few correspondence courses are given point-count credit. You also can’t predict the personnel & funding situation that will exist when you want to return to drill status– you’d hate to be forcibly discharged after just two years due to some “inactive status” policy change.

    Keep in mind that you have to be in a drill billet for Tricare Reserve Select insurance. If you go to the IRR then you’ll have to figure out your own health insurance, and again it might be a struggle getting back into that drill billet.

    Before you take the IRR step it’s worth asking your chain of command about options like IMA, rescheduling drills, quarterly drills, or being cross-assigned to another unit close to your voc rehab location. There might be other opportunities for unpaid duty (yet still points) to get you through those good years. You might even be able to get a one-time “authorized absence” for six months, although not all services offer that option.

  18. Ryan says

    Doug, thanks for the informative write up. I’m curious about if the IRR is right for me. I’ve got 17.5 years ARNG service and I’m considering going through the vocational rehabilitation program offered by the VA. It would involve going out of state to a full time school where actively drilling and annual training could conflict with my schooling. Could I join the IRR for the 3 years that I’m in school full time and then join a national guard unit again afterwards to get to my 20 good years? Also when in the IRR is my unit carrying me and would I be clogging up a slot? Thanks again.

    • Doug Nordman says

      Joseph, you make it sound so easy– yet not every service has access to the same resources.

      The biggest change over the last few years has been removing most of the correspondence courses for point credit. In addition some services (like the Navy) stopped issuing Common Access Cards to servicemembers in the IRR, forcing them to have to visit a drilling site (or a Reserve Center) in order to access their records and training.

  19. angie dunigan says

    great info. I’m interested in transition from the ANG to IRR. How do I start the process?? thank you

    • Doug Nordman says

      Angie, the best way to transfer into the IRR is to submit the request through your chain of command. Some ANG units do it by paper while others use an online form.

      Just to be clear, this post points out all the advantages of staying in a drill billet for retirement credit, for the health insurance, and (eventually) for the pension.

      Once you transfer to the IRR then you lose your eligibility for Tricare Reserve Select health insurance. It’s also become nearly impossible to earn enough points for a good year in the IRR.

      • Joseph Mencar says

        Why is it nearly impossible to earn the 50 points yearly needed to have a good year. You get 15 days off from a private employee fill out Form 40 which gives you 2 points a day= 30 points, 15 membership= 45 online PME course counts for points or take three days vacation from private sector job drill at assigned base gives you 6 points total of 51 for the year, no?
        Do you earn membership points if your in the non participating IRR?

  20. Gabi S. says

    Great post! This speaks to everything going through my mind as I consider my options at the 10 yr mark as well. I will say however, as a female service member, the family aspect can be trickier to navigate with a growing family and a civilian husband. But as you mentioned, there are many ways to go about finding the right solution. Thanks again for putting this together.

    • Doug Nordman says

      Thanks, Gabi, and you’re absolutely right.

      I hear both sides of this issue from the military women in my life (my spouse and our daughter) and from the male military spouses (my son-in-law and the Facebook group “The Men’s Room” for male milspouses).

  21. Frank says


    I am a drilling reservist with the Army National Guard. I have a question regarding time in service and good years. I served on active duty with the Army for 3 years followed by around 5-1/2 months of IRR before joining the national guard. After joining the national guard I drilled and completed the requisite 35 points (on top of the 15 membership points) to complete 50 points for what I thought would be a good year so long as it was completed prior to the anniversary of my entry into the Army (retirement year). I suppose it is more rumor control in that I have gotten conflicting statements regarding the IRR. The opposing position claims that IRR time does not count towards retirement unless you complete the 50 retirement points while a member of the IRR. If you transfer to the national guard or reserve in a drilling status then you lose that time towards retirement (in addition to credit towards any longevity awards, badges etc.).

    Did I lose this time or did I recover it by becoming a drilling reservist and completing the requisite retirement points (50) prior to expiration of the retirement year?

    • Doug Nordman says

      I’ve never heard that rumor before, Frank! You probably have credit for a good year during that time and have not lost any longevity.

      You could check it by reviewing your point-count records. If your anniversary date is still based on when you joined the military, then being in the IRR did not change it. If you have credit for a good year during that first year since your anniversary date (after active duty) then the IRR didn’t affect your good year. If you obtained any drill points while you were in the IRR and those are on your point-count record, then they transferred correctly into the system.

      If you check more details then we can figure out what else may have happened. Maybe you already had a good year when you left active duty for the IRR. For example, if you leave active duty exactly on your anniversary date (no extensions or stop-loss or other delays) then you enter your first Reserve/Guard year (drilling or IRR) with zero points. However if you stayed on active duty past your anniversary date (longer than exactly three years & zero days) then your days of active duty after that anniversary date would be credited toward your point count in the first year of Reserve/Guard duty.

      IRR is still a bad deal if you’re trying to reach 20 good years. All of the services have recently made it very hard to obtain points in the IRR, especially for correspondence courses. In addition if you transfer to the IRR from drill status, even for a single day, then you lose eligibility for Tricare Reserve Select health insurance. You have to be a drilling Reserve/Guard member to maintain TRS coverage.

      I’m not sure about badges or conduct awards. All of the services have different rules for those, and I’m not familiar with the details.

  22. Dayana says

    Good evening,

    I’m a physician assistant with ARMY NG. I have served for 6 years as of June 13th, 2017. I have been paid 3 years of incentive bonus and 2 years of loan repayment. As states in my initial contract, I still have one more loan repayment that is due. If I decided to transfer into IRR status, will I still be entitled to received my last loan repayment bonus totaling $25K before taxes.

    I truly appreciate your help in this matter.


    CPT Dayana Cannan PA-C

    • Doug Nordman says

      Dayana, I’m afraid that I don’t have the answer to that question. The issue is that it’s very difficult to qualify for a good year in the IRR, and the terms of your incentive bonus might require you to be a drilling National Guard member with a good year. That would include both drills and AT, neither of which you’d do in the IRR.

      You could review the terms of your contract with a JAG or your S-1 or HRC, but if I was in your situation then I’d try very hard to find a way to stay in a drill status for that third repayment bonus. You’d really hate to mess this up during your only opportunity.

  23. mike says

    Would it be possible for you to explain all the different ways you can earn an “active duty” retirement while serving in the IRR, IMA, Guard, Reserve, etc. I understand I can use my active duty years to count as “Good Years” for a reserve retirement that would start paying me at 60. And I have heard differing stories about attaining an “Active Duty” retirement that would start paying me immediately. It sounds like I need 7200 (or 7300) of active points to make that happen. Obviously all inactive time would not count (drill weekends, yearly drill 2 weeks, etc.) Does all AGR time count? Active Duty Orders count, correct? Would all IMA time count towards active points? How about the 15 points for being on IR? PIRR, Civil Air Patrol, ALO, Honor Guard? I’d like to leave active duty at 18 years, but I don’t want to wait until 60 to collect a retirement… even if I have to work a few years more to get the points. Thanks!

  24. Super Dave says

    Thanks again for your articles, Doug. (Just surfed on in from your USNR/Guard overview pros/cons.)

    I have an oddball question for you: What would happen to an O-4, or whatever rank, who had a bad year, that is forced out by retirement laws or regs before completing 20 good years? Example: O-4 doesn’t select for O-5 (and can’t continue past 20). Gets one bad year.

    Is that lad or lass allowed to drill an additional year past 20 so they can get their “good 20”?

  25. peter gregory says

    Excellent comments. Especially as applies to the matter of civilian employer-NG relations. Organizations that poorly treat or support their employees presently, will do so into the future. The best indication of future behavior is past behavior. Find a new employer.

    As to the aspect of mobilization. Asymmetric warfare, as we have fought since 9-11, will continue for at least the next generation, 30+ years. And like the Cold War prior, some actions in that era will be hot, Vietnam, and not so hot, Korea DMZ. Mobilization and world wide deployment availability is part of the equation of the Oath and Uniform. The old line between “active” and “Reserve-NG” career patterns is becoming more blurred over time. Mobilization and deployment is a given and expected. If that is a bridge too far for some in some concept of family-career-work life balance. Don’t join the military. If you want the king’s coin at 60, or 45, then the bidding of that sovereign is to be obeyed. We just call it the Constitution.

    • Doug Nordman says

      Great comment, Glen, and thanks for the compliment! I really wish that I’d had the time or the personal bandwidth to learn this info when I was in uniform.

      Yes, you can transfer to the IRR and obtain your final four good years through correspondence courses and other duties. However the majority of the servicemembers who make that choice eventually fail to reach their goals for a number of personal and bureaucratic reasons.

      I’m not sure whether drilling or IRR would be better for your situation, but there are two issues with going to the IRR: the IRR grass looks greener when you’re drilling, and once you go IRR it’s very difficult (especially in a drawdown) to get approval to return to drill status. Many Reservists and Guard members in the IRR tell me that they find themselves challenged to get the points for a good year. Before you make the leap I strongly recommend that you network with as many of your local Guard IRR members that you can track down, and ask them how they’re doing on IRR points.

      First there’s the logistics of the correspondence courses. Can you find enough courses (approved for Guard IRR credit) in the current catalog to total up 4 x 35 points? Will you have the access (CAC card or secure login) to reach the website? Will you have to do the courses on a secure network at your local armory or even revert to paper? The Navy in particular has cut way back on the approved correspondence courses for IRR points, and they’ve largely removed CACs from their Reservists. The Guard may have other unexpected obstacles.

      Will you need to explore other point options besides correspondence courses, such as funeral honors or service as a USNA Blue & Gold Officer? Does the Guard offer other IRR programs for points?

      Next there’s time management. Will all the other demands of your life derail your best of intentions with your correspondence courses? Will you be able to make the time to plug through the courses every week and finish 1-2 per month, or will you find yourself frantically cramming them in during the last two months before your anniversary date? Will all of the online courses take fewer hours per point than a drill weekend, or will some take more?

      Are the demands on your time all year round, or do they peak in certain months? Instead of going to the IRR, would you be able to take authorized absences from 2-3 drill weekends per year? (You’d still earn at least 36 points.) If money’s not an issue then would your command let you waive your AT (or other training duty) and still qualify for a good year?

      Finally there’s the business side. I spend time with entrepreneurs and startup founders and I appreciate the challenges. If your business is booming, can you delegate or outsource or partner with someone who can get you through the busiest times of the year (or the next four years)? Should the Guard be your higher priority? Can you compare your business’ current opportunity cost to the present value of a lifetime O-5 Guard pension (with Tricare and Tricare For Life) starting at age 60?

      In order to retire with your O-5 rank on your retirement certificate, you’ll need to serve at least three years in that grade. (Under federal law, the service secretaries frequently waive this to two years during drawdowns.) However your High Three pension is based only on the highest 36 months of pay during your career. You’ll complete (at least) 2-3 years of O-5 time in grade to reach 20 good years and then you’ll “retire awaiting pay” at O-5 rank. While you’re in gray area you’ll continue to accrue years of service at the O-5 rank as though you’ve been on duty up through age 60. In other words, your High Three calculation will include the pay tables in effect when you’re ages 57, 58, and 59. It’ll also include your longevity up through age 60, so your O-5 longevity column on the pay tables will be at the years of service when you’re those ages. For most Reserve/Guard members, that will be the maximum pay for your rank.

      We don’t have the pay tables for the 36 months before you turn age 60, but the best way to estimate your pension in today’s dollars would be to use your total point count at retirement (including your four years in the IRR) and the maximum pay column in the O-5 row of the 2016 pay tables.

      Please let us know how it goes. I’ve heard the joke many times: you know that you’ve reached work/life balance when your personal business, your Guard unit, and your family are all equally annoyed with you. I’d love to share some IRR success stories with the readers.

  26. Glen R says

    I notice that several times on your site you recommend that people make sure to get their 20 year NOE prior to going IRR. I’m not sure that I understand why you recommend that. I am currently at 16 good years, 11 from active duty Navy, 5 from the National Guard. I recently picked up O-5, but I have to admit that I have run out of desire to continue at my current pace for the next 4 years. I am exploring a lot of options to back down a bit, but one thing that seems quite appealing is IRR. My personal business is booming right now and my guard time is actually costing me money in lost opportunity. I am having a lot of difficulty juggling everything, but I also don’t want to lose the retirement when I am relatively close.

    As I understand it, I can switch to IRR and still complete my remaining 4 good years via correspondence courses. IRR provides 15 participation points per year, so I would only have to complete 35 points worth of courses. Looking at the available course catalog, there are interesting courses that I know I could complete with less time investment than I am currently putting into my drill weekends. I am perfectly content to top out here. I don’t need any more promotions, I don’t need the part-time paycheck right now, and I don’t really need more points. I just need 4 good years to eventually cash in on the 16 hard years that I have already put in. Well, to be honest, it was 1 easy year, 10 hard years and 5 moderate years 🙂

    If there is a major mobilization, I would be eager to answer that call and contribute in any way that I can. However, I do have some concern that I would be recalled to active duty to fill some pointless hard fill billet in Bahrain. That is a risk that I have lived with for a long time, so I guess I can deal with it.

    If I go IRR and make good years, would I be able to earn a full O-5 retirement, or would I have a high 3 average of O-4/O-5? It really doesn’t make too much difference to me, but I would be curious to know.

    Thank you very much for your book, your blog postings, and managing this Q&A space. I have done a lot of research, both online and in person, and few sites have this much good information compiled in one space. In many cases, the military HR support is lacking in knowledge and/or motivation, especially when it comes to getting answers about non-traditional or “off track” options.

  27. Robert Shaye says

    I recently transitioned from AD to IRR and asked about this specific question at TAPS. Everything I found out confirms what the author states: you must be drilling (SELRES) to transfer the GI Bill benefits to dependents. If anyone has contrary info, would be great to hear it. Good info!

  28. Peter Gregory says

    Depending on where one retires or settles another option if one seeks to keep the Uniform on from time and time and do something of a military nature and make a positive contribution is affiliation with a local NJROTC unit at the HS level or the Sea Cadet program of the Navy League.

    Both organizations are very well established in the North East, were the concentration of military bases and active units are not as frequent as in the SE or West.

    Many HS in at-risk or challenged urban areas have JROTC units and affliction as well as paid positions vary according to the local district. Sea Cadet leadership, much like the CAP, can offer the retired grey area reservist assistance in keeping their points current. Having assisted in both programs post retirement, the experience is very satisfying.

  29. Deserat says

    Doug – good advice – with regard to the USAFR and IRR, right now it is very difficult for IRR Officer Reservists to find paying Reserve jobs due to the huge influx of separating (due to cascading RiF boards) active duty personnel looking for Reserve positions, even for high demand AFSCs. He should double-triple check verify he has a good 20 year letter and then place the expectation of a paying Reserve job very low unless another war breaks out or he has friends in high/low places, especially with the current state of the federal government budget and DoD resource constraints.

    With regard to ‘correspondence courses’, there has been a serious clamp down on the use of those for unpaid points towards retirement – in the Air Force Reserve, we must have several signed approvals from our supervisors attesting that we are not on government civilian paid status while taking the courses (many of our Reservists do some of the same things in their civilian (government job) as they do as Reservists (acquisition community)), and we must be authorized to take those classes (have the awarded AFSC and be working in that capacity in our Reserve jobs). I know that the Navy relies on this and was told through the grapevine they’ve almost been shut down over this….(some regulatory constraint that hadn’t been closely enforced). If you are able to do PME via correspondence, that should still count as unpaid points. I would recheck with the points people in your service to verify this and get the person who really knows…..

    With regard to the early receipt of retirement, there are some magic words that need to be on the orders he had from 2008 on and it must be 90 days within a FY (just went through this exercise and was awarded *nothing*).

    Even with the above, it is still a stream of income at 60 that allows for flexibility with other stream of income arrangements at/around normal retirement age.

    By the way, I don’t use the TRICARE Select Reserve, however, one of my Reservists said it was a great deal compared to any of the options he had in his civilian capacity and was one of the reasons why he was staying in the Reserves, so your respondent should double-triple check that as well.

    • Doug Nordman says

      S, I’m afraid that all of the services have been reducing the ability to get points for correspondence courses.

      At this point the best options seem to be funeral detail, IMA points for certain activities or drills with your unit, or (for a very few in the IRR) serving as a recruiting officer for a military academy.

      • Drew says

        Sir, you may want to look into the “Individual Mobilization Augmentee (IMA)” program. You have to go IRR first to qualify for this program, but basically you complete your entire annual drill obligation in one shot (five weeks) and are left alone the rest of the entire year! You also can choose when exactly you wish to complete the combined five weeks (AT and IDT drills). You also receive ALL the benefits a drilling reservist receives. This program is designed for Officers and Senior NCOS, but they have some slots for E-5 or above. It is available to all branches of the US Military and there are currently over 1000 openings.

      • Doug Nordman says

        Good question, Super Dave. Unfortunately the answer is “No”.

        I get that question several times per year from Reserve/Guard members who have missed a good year and then (for whatever reason) run into an obstacle: failure to promote, not permitted to re-enlist, or not able to continue in a drill billet.

        I’ve heard (but have not confirmed) that it’s hypothetically possible to transfer to another service. One example is an O-4 who fails to promote and reaches their service limit at 20 years but has only 16 good years. They could separate from the Navy Reserve and apply to the National Guard in the enlisted ranks, reach 20 good years there, and then file for retired awaiting pay. Because they had more than 10 years of commissioned service they’d be considered eligible (at age 60) for an O-4 Reserve pension.

      • Super Dave says

        Hi Doug,

        Those obstacles to retirement are the kinds of things that the DoD should wrap around in black/yellow DANGER tape. You would think the big N would advise separation right then and there! But they don’t. There is a lot of jeopardy for even one bad year, it appears.

        I had one bad year, but fortunately I picked up USNR O-5, which allows me to keep drilling until (I believe) I hit 28 years active + reserve.

        Trying to read in-between the lines on everything here:

        Any new insights since your last? Thanks again and please continue all the good things you do.


  30. Mina Hill says

    I am active duty and have approved for a non-regular retirement, my orders state I am to go into individual ready retirement status until I am reserve retirement age. Can I still find a reserve or national guard unit and do drills with them?

    • Doug Nordman says

      Excellent question, Mina! That policy seems to vary by service (especially for the Air Force, not so much for the Navy) but it’s possible. Talk to your local Reserve/Guard unit about the options– especially presenting military honors for veterans’ funeral services.

      • S says

        Can someone please tell me how to get points in the Air Force IRR other than the two PME courses? I have been calling everyone from my unit to the point calculation folks in Colorado and no one can give me any suggestions other than it cannot be done.

  31. M.Garcia says

    I spent eight years in the Army IRR. I now work for the federal government. Can these
    years be used for retirement purposes?
    also I was active duty three years, can these be used also?

  32. Drew B. says

    Hi! I’m an Army Reserve E-6 who has about ten years total active duty and who re-enlisted “indefinitely” in 2006 and who’s ETS is currently 2027 (when I turn age 60). I have a total of 19 “good” years towards a reserve retirement. I am a drilling reservist in the only remaining USAR Infantry unit (in Hawaii). I recently moved back to Ohio from Hawaii and plan to enter the IRR as soon as I earn my 50 points for the year (both because I prefer to be in the IRR and also because there are no USAR Infantry units available on the U.S. mainland). My specific questions are these: 1. Can I transfer to the IRR as an “Indefinite” soldier instead of retiring “awaiting a pension”?? In other words can I spend 15 years in the IRR awaiting my USAR pension instead of spending that time as a “gray area retiree” awaiting my pension?? 2. Due to already having earned my “20 year letter” I wouldn’t be all that concerned with earning retirement points. Would I be required to earn retirement points in the IRR? I do not want to be a drilling reservist anymore but I am interested in IRR opportunities (perhaps IMA or “short tours” etc…) I will be retired early from my civilian civil service job and actually look forward to the IRR as a kind of “wild card” retirement. Thanks for any insight!

    • Doug Nordman says

      Great question, Drew!

      First, before you make any moves from your drilling Reserve status, make sure that you have 20 good years and your Notice of Eligibility for your retirement. Once you go into the IRR, it’s difficult to return to drilling status (and then it could take months). Recheck your good years and point counts and get the Army’s confirmation. It takes a long time to correct any errors, and you don’t want to be stuck in the IRR if you need one more good year.

      Second, while you’re in the IRR, you still have to conform to the Army’s requirements. That includes physical readiness as well as complying with any training requirements like an annual muster. If you exceed height-weight limits or don’t comply with annual status checks then you could find yourself being forced to retire. Others have also found the IRR’s minimal requirements to be more than they’re willing to handle (especially if they’re also coping with family or elder care), but you could always retire from the IRR.

      Third, you might bump into a high-year tenure limit for your rank. There are no point requirements while you’re in the IRR, but you might be required to retire (from the IRR) when you reach the maximum number of years permitted at your rank.

      Finally, the Army has the approval authority on whether you can go to the IRR or retire awaiting pay. Their policy is generally shaped by force manpower targets. Although it might make perfect sense for you to be in the IRR, the Army might want to reduce the ranks by pruning the IRR roster.

      I’m not personally familiar with the Army’s latest IRR policies. (Readers, any help here?) You may still have an opportunity to earn points, particularly for burial services. Before you make the leap, see if you can learn more from your XO or anyone in your unit who’s transferred to the IRR. You could also ask the members of RallyPoint about their IRR experiences, and I’m pretty sure someone will chime in.

  33. Jeff M says

    Hello, thanks for all this information. I am in the Navy with 7 years active 3 years reserves and 10 years IRR. I have not been active in the IRR meaning I did not meet my 50 points for retirement but maintained 27 points for minimum participation. So I am a few months away from 20 total years. What happens now. Is there anyway to retire without pay just benefits or any other options. Thanks…

    • Doug Nordman says

      Jeff, the only way to earn a Reserve retirement is through 20 good years. I’m not sure whether your IRR years had the minimum number of points to qualify for good years, but you can check that by reviewing your point count statement– either online or with the help of your local Reserve center. You should also verify that it’s accurate.

      Assuming you have 20 good years of service, you’ll receive a Notice of Eligibility with instructions on how to file for retirement. If you’re short of 20 good years then you’ll have to talk to a recruiter or your local Reserve center about returning to drill status (or reaching the minimum annual points via IRR activities).

      If you’ve reached 20 years and a NOE, the retirement details are at this post:

  34. Doug Nordman says

    Mike, I understand what you’re seeking but it happens for very few servicemembers. Most of them have arcane skills like trauma surgeon or dual-status technician (aircraft). A handful more are in full-time active-duty support billets for the Guard/Reserve. It’s extremely unlikely for you to be able to earn an active duty retirement from the Reserve/Guard.

    Your years on active duty (before you affiliate with a Reserve/Guard unit) count toward Reserve/Guard credit at one point per day of active duty. A year of active-duty points is a good year, of course, and any points past that anniversary of your year will count toward credit for the next good year in the Reserve/Guard.

    I’ll build up to your situation. For example, if you’re on active duty for five years and 30 days then you have 5×365 points (plus a leap year point or two) and five good years. 30 days past that anniversary of five years means that you have 30 points toward good year #6, so just a couple drill weekends will take care of bagging that good year.

    We’ll circle back to your 18-year question in a few more paragraphs.

    The way to attain an active-duty retirement from the Reserve/Guard is to go back on active duty. One way is to be selected for Navy “Full Time Support”, where you’re on active duty in a billet that takes care of a district of Reserve units. Another way is to be selected for an Air Force AGR billet doing similar duties. However that means you were in a Reserve/Guard unit, in drill status, and you were selected for a special active-duty program. As you might imagine, it’s very competitive. You’re also on active duty– which means you can be transferred to a new duty station.

    Another way (full of urban legends) is “sanctuary”. (Look up that keyword on the site and read those posts.) Essentially you have to be mobilized from a drill billet, and during that active-duty mobilization you have to cross over 18 years of active-duty points. Then before you’re demobilized you have to file for sanctuary status, which would allow you to continue on active duty in that billet until you reach 20 years. This does not happen by accident, and the services actively track it to avoid putting you in the position to declare it.

    You’re right, drill weekends don’t count. Only active-duty time is part of the 18 year total. (That includes AT, ADSW, mobilization, and a few other categories.) Participation points do not count. I doubt that PIRR, CAP, ALO, or Honor Guard count because those are not active duty. I’m not sure about IMA. It essentially means that you had to have 7000-8000 points (most of which came from years of active duty or mobilization) to accumulate the 18 years of 6575 sanctuary points. And then you’d be in sanctuary status until you reached your 20th anniversary.

    If you left active duty just short of 18 years, then you’d need two more good years to be eligible for a Reserve/Guard pension at age 60. However the services are keenly aware of your proximity to sanctuary. You’d be forced to either waive sanctuary to volunteer for active-duty orders, or you’d never be mobilized and you’d have to finish your 20 good years with drill weekends.

    I know one Air Force officer who left active duty at 14 years. After a few years in the ANG she was selected for a (very competitive) AGR billet. She’ll finish 20 years of active duty for her active-duty retirement. She’s the only one to do this among thousands of readers who I’ve heard from over the last decade. I also know of a trauma surgeon who was able to declare sanctuary during a mobilization (and his service fully supported that). I know of one Marine Reserve officer who reached sanctuary after multiple mobilizations and simply outstanding performance, and that was during the “surge” years of the Iraq War.

    The most reliable path to the goal you seek is to transfer to the FTS or AGR communities (or your service’s equivalent). In that case I recommend that you talk with a Reserve/Guard recruiter and with your active-duty assignment officer.

  35. Doug Nordman says

    Each service does it differently, Whitney, and I’m not sure of their specific processes.

    Talk with your chain of command, and that’ll also help you get an estimate of when you’d be able to stop showing up for drill weekends.

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