The Minister of the Army issued an aide-memoire warning hundreds of thousands of National Guard soldiers that if they refuse to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, they cannot be extended on guard.
“I have determined that all soldiers who refuse compulsory vaccination orders will be flagged,” Secretary Christine E. Wormuth wrote this week in a memo that will prevent them from promotions, awards, bonuses and the like. She wrote that if the troops continued to decline, they would not be allowed to “continue service” unless an approved vaccine exemption was granted.
Last week, the newly appointed Adjutant General of the Oklahoma National Guard Brig. General Thomas H. Mancino announced on behalf of Governor Kevin Stitt that the state’s Guardsmen would not need the Covid-19 vaccine. This policy conflicts with a Pentagon directive issued in August that makes vaccination mandatory for all military personnel, including the National Guard, within a timeframe set by each service unit.
The memorandum has sparked a fierce standoff between Oklahoma officials and the Pentagon, which insists that all members of the National Guard must follow the same vaccination procedures as members of the active duty. Guards troops are subordinate to the governor unless they are deployed at the federal level. However, the Pentagon is firmly of the opinion that its mandate to vaccinate exceeds the rights of the state.
In Oklahoma, 89 percent of Guardsmen were vaccinated, while only 40 percent of Army Guardsmen were vaccinated; The deadline for members of the Army’s National Guard is next month. All branches of the military were allowed to set their own vaccination times for military personnel and guards, as well as their own penalties for refusing to fire.
The Pentagon fears other states may follow Oklahoma’s lead.
Representatives of the Texas Guard, for example, said in an email that the Pentagon appears to be imposing mandates to vaccinate military personnel and members of the National Guard without adequate protection for those with religious objections, and hinted that this could also allow members to skip injections.
Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy also issued a memorandum stating that “President Biden and his administration have taken action or announced plans of action that threaten the sovereign authority of Alaska,” including “imposing vaccine sanctions on military personnel and members of the National Guard without proper protection of persons with religious objections ”.
In fact, Texas and Alaska appear to be holding a passive version of Oklahoma’s written politics. “We are awaiting further guidance from the US Army and Air Force Departments regarding the National Guard’s requirements,” said Candice Olmsted, spokeswoman for the Alaska Guard, in an email.
So far, the Department of Defense has provided a small number of exemptions from the vaccine, including for people who are already leaving the military or have health problems, but those who are still pending for religious reasons.