Should You Transfer to the Army IRR?

Should you transfer to the Army IRR, retire, stay in, or get out of the military altogether?

This is a difficult decision that every Soldier has to deal with at some point or another in their career.

It’s seldom an easy decision either.

Once you’ve served in the military for six to ten years, you really have a VESTED interest to stay in.

It’s hard to walk away.

And the longer you serve, the harder it is to leave, even if you are unhappy.

Yes, there are a select few people that know that they are ready to leave the military for good, but most people struggle to make a decision.

For the rest of this article, I want to share some questions you can ask yourself (and your family) to help you make an informed career decision.

I definitely believe this is something you should put a lot of thought into.

Weigh the pros and cons, talk to mentors and talk with your family about it.

And whatever you do, don’t make a “hasty” career decision.

Here are the questions in no particular order.

#1) How many years do you have until you can retire?

Do you have five, ten or fifteen years of military service?

How many years do you have left until you can retire?

If you have more than 15 years of military service, you might want to just stick it out and finish your time, rather than transferring to the Individual Ready Reserve.

On the other hand, if you have less than 10 years of service, you could just leave the military entirely.

Personally, I think anyone with ten or more years of service should stick it out (in most cases anyway).

After all, you can finish your time in the ARNG, Army Reserves or Army IRR and still earn a pension.

# 2) How much would your pension be?

Here’s the big one.

It amazes me how many people have never calculated how much their pension will be.

The same people tell you that they are “doing it for the pension,” have no idea how much their pension will be.

I think that’s crazy.

If you get nothing else from this article, you need to go to the HRC Retirement Calculator and calculate what your military pension will be.

Most officers and NCOs in the Army National Guard and Army Reserves get peanuts for a pension, unless they have some Active Duty (or deployment) time.

So if you are doing it for the pension, make sure you know how much you are going to get when you retire.

# 3) Do you still enjoy serving your country?

Are you a giver or a taker?

This might sound harsh to some of you, but oh well. I think everyone needs to look themselves in the mirror once in a while, and ask themselves the following questions. “Am I a giver or a taker? Am I contributing something good to this organization, or am I just someone putting in time?”

I don’t think anyone should stay in just to stay in.

If your heart isn’t in it, you should take a break or get out all together.

I say that because Soldiers deserve good leadership.

As leaders, we need to have the SKILL and the WILL to lead our troops.

Without that, we are combat ineffective.

So, if you heart isn’t in it anymore, transfer to the Army IRR for a year.

After a year off from the military, make a decision to stay in or get out.

# 4) What does your family think?

It amazes me how many Soldiers make career decisions without consulting with their family members first; especially their spouse.

Before you transfer to the Army IRR, get out, or retire, you should have a sit-down with your spouse.

Just think about how much they have supported you during your career.

When you make a major decision it affects them too.

So take the time and get their input.

Find out their fears and concerns.


Ask questions.

And take what they have to say seriously.

Don’t ever make a major decision without their input.

# 5 What are the alternatives?

This is another important question to ask yourself before you make your decision to stay in or get out.

Are you eligible for an early retirement?

How is the civilian job market?

Have you posted your resume to see what type of opportunities are out there?

If the job market sucks and you won’t be able to find a comparable job, maybe it’s better to stay in.

If you have lots of opportunities, then getting out might be a better option.

In either case, do your due diligence.

Attend a couple career fairs just to test the waters.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the decision to transfer to the IRR, retire or get out is never an easy one.

But, it is an important decision.

Therefore, you need try to make a logical decision, based upon what’s best for you and your family.

You can do that by following the steps outlined above.

Good luck!

On a side note, if you are thinking about leaving the military entirely, I think it would be wise to transfer to the Army IRR for a year while you collect your thoughts.

After a year, make a decision and go from there.

That way, if you decide to come back in, it will be a seamless process.

We are open to your questions or comments; feel free to leave it below.

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chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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10 thoughts on “Should You Transfer to the Army IRR?”

  1. I've always felt ten years was the tipping point. For every year over ten it would be more difficult for me to walk away. Past fifteen and you can nearly see the finish line. It's a very personal decision to enter the IRR, Guard or Reserve. Sit down and plan out some options and then discuss them with your family.
    The long and short of it is that we all get a little disheartened sometimes, you just have to find out if it's temporary feeling or if you think it's time to walk away.

  2. The most important part that I read in this post is to consult your family. This is a must! Making rash decisions without the family can lead to some major problems. I also believe that when you stated that if you are thinking of getting out, join the IRR for a year or so to make sure that is exactly what you want. In many cases, the military can be like a mate you have been with. You are away for a bit and realize just how much you loved him/her. It can be that same way with military life.

  3. Be advised, Army correspondence courses now require a CAC card to take the exam. They also require self-registration through ATRRS, which requires…you guessed it, a CAC card! You don’t get CAC card access in the IRR. So doing correspondence courses in the IRR for points is basically no longer an option.

  4. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on when to retire. It is a balance between the desire to serve, the demands of other things in your life and really, if you are still enjoying the experience. I appreciate that you included number 4 on your list, which has to deal with talking to your family. Decisions on whether to stay in are not just going to impact you, but your family as well. All things in here are good points to ponder.

  5. There are a number of factors you should consider if you are considering transferring to the IRR. You have to keep all your options in tact but do what makes more sense for your career and family in the long run. Take the time to discuss this in-depth with your spouse and consider your financial obligations as well. Sometimes it pays to just suck it up for a few more years.

    1. So true, Michelle. I always told my Soldiers that if they were not 100% sure they were done with the military for good, to transfer to the IRR until they made that decision. That way it was easy for them to come back in if they changed their mind.


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