A loyal GubMints reader writes:

First off, thanks for such an informative website.  I am … in a VTU, and I have 2 more years left…, the local NOSC seems like they want more and more from us.  I am leaning towards the IRR, but I also want to make sure that can actually be feasible with just doing correspondence courses.  I, like yourself, am way too close to lose my retirement now.  What are the major issues that you have faced in the IRR with these courses?

Thanks for reading!  It’s not easy keeping up with the Navy’s IRR Regulations.

Here’s this years’  Navy IRR Survival Guide.

[Disclaimer:  Navy Reserve N7 can- And Will- Change these rules at some point.  This guide is accurate as of the day of this posting]

If you’re considering moving from a Navy paid drill billet (SELRES) or VTU to the IRR, the most important question is:


When you go IRR you lose your CAC card and get a ‘Green’ card with no chip.  In the last 18 months the Navy has placed many of the available IRR correspondence courses behind a CAC Firewall- Including the DAU courses.  According to the Navy Correspondence Course Credit List, here’s an approximation of what is (and is NOT) available depending on your CAC Card status:

Navy IRR Survival Guide for 2016

As you can see, there’s a HUGE difference between what’s available with and without a CAC card.  The FEMA courses are rank/rating independent and are pretty straightforward to earn.  However, with only 101 FEMA points available for the taking, that’s just under 3 years of credit you can earn.  The JKO courses are available if you get a referral from someone with a ‘.mil’ email address, but some of the courses are very specific (foreign language aptitude) and/or time consuming.  Your Mileage may Vary.  Bottom Line:  If I were making the transition from VTU/SELRES to the IRR, I would not expect to earn more than 3 years’ worth of points without a CAC Card.

[RANT: Side rant about correspondence courses. 

On a personal note, for my 2013-2014 anniversary year I did the same as in previous years and faxed in a bunch of DAU course completions for about 40 points of expected credit.  Unfortunately, some of the DAU courses I did were not on the ‘official’ approved Navy Reserve N7 list and I got zero or partial credit- ending up in an UNSAT  year in the Reserves! 

I thought I had plenty of points, since there was a recommended ‘Joint’ reserve point credit on each DAU certificate.  However, Navy Reserve N7 had published its own list of ‘approved’ courses on its CAC-enabled website (exclusively) and I was none the wiser.  Long story short- After dozens of emails, phone calls, faxes, and a six month Board for Correction of Naval Records (BCNR) appeal process- I STILL had an UNSAT year. 

So for all those in the IRR, know that Navy Reserve N7 can make like Lucy and ‘Pull the Football’ – Changing the list of approved correspondence courses at any time.  Be sure to send your course certificates in for credit promptly after you complete them, and don’t wait until after the end of your anniversary year to fax in your credits and find out you got stiff-armed.  /RANT]

For a more comprehensive review of available Correspondence Courses, how useful they are, and how much effort you will likely expend, join the Air Warriors forum and check out the Correspondence Course thread.

As for other info regarding the IRR, the BUPERS website has a decent FAQ page, and they have done a decent job of keeping it up to date during the last year.   The BUPERS Points FAQ page has the links to all of the correspondence course websites as well.


Musters– Your only hard requirement in the IRR is to do an annual muster on your anniversary date.  The Navy will typically send you email and snail mail reminding you to update your annual muster, which you can fill out via electronic pdf or hand-write and mail in.  In five years I have not had to do a physical muster but I’m not afraid of doing one since I keep in decent shape, still fit in my uniforms, and don’t look like a dirty hippie.  Just know that Big Navy is using Fatness and Sobriety to cull the number of sailors and officers (both Active and Reserves), so physical musters could be the next lever they try to pull to trim the population in the IRR as well.

Benefits in the IRR are sketchy.
MWR – Some bases will recognize you at full Active/Reserve status, and some won’t give you the time of day.  For example, the local marine base won’t let me on to the Rec Facilities (campgrounds, cabins or recreational gear rental) without a CAC card or a ‘Retired’ ID card (I don’t understand why they would be more willing to provide benefits to me after I retire and am less likely to be mobilized, but go figure…).  Most of the local golf courses though are pretty friendly to any kind of military ID to make a tee time or walk-on and play.

Healthcare – You don’t qualify for TRICARE Reserve Select unless you’re SELRES, and you don’t qualify for TRICARE Retired Reserve until you’re retired.  While in the IRR you’re on your employer’s plan or ObamaCare.

Space A – Haven’t had the time to try it, so I can’t testify.  You’re so far down the pecking order though that you’d almost have to be retired to have a go at it anyway.  From Military Times:

Space-A is open worldwide to all active-duty members on leave and military retirees receiving retired pay, with a DD Form 2. It is also open to National Guard and reserve members on the active status list to travel within the U.S. or its territories. National Guard and reserve members who are not mobilized on active duty must have a DD Form 1853 to travel.
“Gray area” retirees — those under age 60 who have qualified for retirement but are not yet drawing retired pay — also are eligible for space-A travel within the U.S. or its territories. Once they start drawing retirement pay and are issued a DD Form 2, they are eligible for worldwide space-A travel with their family members.

Commissary – I’ve never had a problem using my ‘Green’ ID card at a Commissary or Exchange.  Also never had issue with base access (to the areas accessible to dependents that are ‘outside the wire’).

So there you have it.  You can probably eke out a few years’ worth of points in the IRR without a CAC card, but keep a backup plan to return to SELRES, VTU, or a civilian job that provides a CAC card in case you need it!

10 thoughts on “Navy IRR Survival Guide for 2016

  1. This is so very helpful. I’m actually within three years of retirement (actually about 2.5 now) and already have more than 4000 total points due to my time on active duty and as a SELRES. Now I’m in VTU and essentially drilling for points because I had some bad years that pushed me over HYT. Problem I’m running into now is I’m doing a lot of ADT, traveling on orders supporting missions for a program I’ve been affiliated with for several years. I enjoy this and the fact I get paid for it is nice. Problem I have is my NOSC is saying irrespective of how many points I earn on ADT, I still need a minimum of 40 points earned through unpaid IDT periods (Drill Weekends) for a good year towards retirement. It’s a hard sell to my wife for me to be gone so much on ADT and still work all of these unpaid weekends. Any thoughts in this regard? Thanks in advance.

    • Chris –

      Thanks for your service!
      This does not pass muster. 50 points is a ‘sat’ participation year in the reserves – Regardless of how the points were earned.

      Ask for a printout of your ASOSH/ARPR from your NOSC (may have to see Command Career Counselor).

      • Thanks so much. I’ll look into this. The other issue is the policy of unexcused absences that applies to SELRES. Typically, as with SELRES, VTU members are also scheduled to drill on a monthly basis. All of these drills have to be adjudicated in some form, so I either need to reschedule them and execute them later in the Fiscal Year, or request Authorized Absences. I fail to understand why they don’t have a system that trades ADT periods for scheduled IDT periods in EDM (allowing one to substitute one for the other).

        I don’t know if the unexcused absences policy applies to VTU, but typically for SELRES, once the member hits 9 unexcused absences in the FY, they’re typically separated and/or booted to IRR. Since VTU is technically still IRR, I’m not sure what would happen should I run up against this situation.

        Grateful for the response. Thanks so much for your time.

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  4. What about the NETC courses? Have you given any of those a shot? I’ve got enough points for 18 good years (10 active, 8 SELRES) and am thinking of switching to the IRR to get my last two. Thanks for laying out the gouge.

  5. Hello again. Been a but more than a year since I last posted. My situation has changed dramatically. Now working OCONUS on a USMC installation as a defense contractor. Am still Navy Reserve VTU in non-pay status due to HYT. Therefore, I only get paid when I go on ADT orders. Getting back to the US for the unpaid IDT periods (i.e. Drill Weekends) extremely difficult. My unit’s trying to work with me to do some drills remotely, but the Reserve Center will likely take issue with me doing too many remote drills, and apparently can only get 8 drill periods (two drill weekends) Authorized Absence in a Fiscal Year before the Reserve Center somehow flags the year as “not” a good year for retirement.

    My anniversary is in April, and I’m waiting for my point capture to roll over and show 18 good years. I’m thinking sometime this year to pull the plug and go IRR, finishing out my last two years in the IRR via a combination of correspondence courses and hopefully some ADT orders from a program I’m currently supporting.

    I do have a CAC card as I reenlisted for three years last December. So I’m good from that aspect. Also have a contractor CAC now that I’m working for a DOD contractor.

    Hoping to hear some feedback here. There really seems to be so much vagueness in what my options are to transfer from VTU-IRR to just an IRR status. It’s interesting how the VTU is considered “IRR”, yet there are drill requirements the same as SELRES.

    Thanks in advance.

    Chris Thompson

    • Chris – Thanks for reading. The Navy’s IRR page has the latest approved correspondence courses. Without a CAC, ther’es probably 1-3 years’ worth of courses. With a CAC you’ve got a much wider scope to choose from. Best of luck!

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