Publication Date


Document Type



Iraq's invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990 set in motion a chain of events that would change the world community. In the United States, this unprovoked aggression resulted in the activation of hundreds of thousands of military reserves and National Guard personnel in response to the Iraqi's "naked aggression." As the reservists prepared to enter active military service, a fifty year old law, enacted to protect servicemembers and those making the transition between civilian and military life, rose from obscurity like a phoenix. Surprise and voluminous inquiry erupted, as a new generation of servicemembers and businessmen were introduced to protections provided by the Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act of 1940 (the "SSCRA").

After the Selective Service Act ("the draft") terminated in 1973, the Department of Defense initiated the Total Force Policy. The concept involved integration of the reserves with active duty combat forces. The Reserve Component was to be trained for a wartime mission to "provide the military with its 'surge' capacity to mobilize on short notice for a large conflict." Over the past ten years, the military, and especially the United States Army, has shifted more of its combat support resources into the reserves as a fiscal saving measure. With a current military force structure that includes a National Guard and reserve force of approximately 1.6 million, any large-scale operation mandates their activation for mission accomplishment.

The men and women who responded to the nation's needs were initially left guessing whether they were protected from civil and legal problems they could not attend to at home. If they went directly to the SSCRA, it did not offer much help. Instead, the answer came from the legislative history and the Department of Defense's interpretation of the SSCRA. In addition to soldiers and sailors, referred to in the title, reservists, National Guard personnel, the Air Force, the commissioned corps of the Public Health Service," and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration1s are covered.

This Article provides an overview of the recent 1991 amendments to the SSCRA and focuses on the most common pitfalls in applying the SSCRA.. It also explores suggested changes to clarify the SSCRA and attempts to untangle the web of confusion surrounding its interpretations.