WASHINGTON - Up to 2,500 Marines will be recalled to active duty to make up for a critical shortage of specialists to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Marine Corps said yesterday, the first time since the invasion of Iraq three years ago that Marine commanders have taken the extraordinary step of drafting back into uniform those who have left the ranks. [...] However, it is the first time the Marines have called back personnel who have left the service. The Corps has met its recruiting goals, has been able to retain a sufficient number of seasoned combat veterans, and has been authorized by Congress to increase its overall ranks, but says it is short about 1,200 specialists in engineering, military police work, communications, and intelligence operations.
But things must really be getting tough when submarine force reservists are being deployed to the Middle East - as customs inspectors:
WILLIAMSBURG - The training is foreign to most of the 450 Navy reservists preparing for customs duty in Kuwait and Iraq: driving Humvees, shooting pistols and M-16 rifles, learning riot control.
It's especially strange to the 102 members of the Navy's submarine reserves who make up almost a quarter of Navy Customs Battalion Romeo.
The unit heads to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, in early September for a six- to seven-month rotation inspecting the vehicles, equipment and personal belongings of U.S. military units leaving Iraq.
This will be the first group deployment of submarine reservists in support of the war in Iraq. Most of the battalion will stay in Kuwait, but about 40 sailors will work at a U.S. base in Iraq.
The 1,600 members of the submarine reserve typically fulfill their annual duty doing maintenance on submarine tenders in Italy and Guam, or repairing and guarding submarines in U.S. ports.
Things are getting stretched pretty damn thin, it seems to me. Good thing the Administration and its Congressional allies are working on important measures - like flag-burning amendments and Paris Hilton's tax cut - that do so much to support the troops. </sarcasm>