As a deadline approaches for its members to get a COVID-19 vaccine, the U.S. Army is preparing to take disciplinary action against members who have thus far failed to get the jab.
Unvaccinated soldiers will be banned from “reenlistment, reassignment, promotion, appearance before a semi-centralized promotion board, issuance of awards and decorations,” as well as other measures, according to a memo put out by Army Secretary Christine Wormuth this week, Just the News reported.
Any troops who continue to refuse the vaccine will eventually be processed out of the Army; it’s not clear if that discharge will be less than honorable for violating a direct order from the commander-in-chief, President Joe Biden, as well as Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who issued the vaccine mandate in August after getting the okay from the president.
The Army is only offering a limited number of exemptions. The U.S. Navy and the Marine Corps have implemented similar policies, Just the News reported.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon must also figure out what to do with Oklahoma Army and Air National Guard forces after their governor and commander issued a directive stating they are not required to get the vaccine.
The Washington Post reported:
Brig. Gen. Thomas Mancino, speaking to several dozen members of the Oklahoma National Guard in Oklahoma City, cast himself as an apolitical leader bound by law to answer to Gov. Kevin Stitt (R), who fired the state’s previous National Guard commander last week and ordered Mancino the next day to issue a policy allowing members to avoid the vaccine.
The extraordinary move by Stitt has prompted interest among multiple governors and National Guard commanders to explore similar policies in their states, Oklahoma officials said, while leaving the Biden administration with little recourse but to hold individual service members accountable for refusing lawful orders that their immediate chain of command has disavowed.
“I did not initiate a civilian-military crisis just because I thought it was cool, right?” Mancino said, according to the Post, which confirmed his comments with the general himself.
During the same townhall, Mancino noted that he first consulted with National Guard attorneys while appearing to give the Defense Department a path forward if it wants to assert authority: If he is called into federal service (National Guard units serve their states and their citizens first and foremost) he will carry out the mandate.
He also appeared to show some deference to Austin, with whom he said he served in Afghanistan and joking that Austin “a very big individual who can crush me like a bug with his hands.”
Mancino also said that he has encouraged his Guard troops to get vaccinated if they choose to do so. “Where we differ,” he noted, in reference to the Pentagon directive, “is my governor said it’s a personal choice on whether you do.”
Pentagon officials said that the president and the DoD have the authority to order National Guard troops to get the vaccine because they fall under a federal pay status on the weekends and other occasions when they train.
“We are not aware of any governor attempting to prohibit members from receiving the vaccine, and don’t see this as placing any individual member in conflict with state authorities,” Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby noted in a statement. “Failure to receive the vaccine may jeopardize an individual member’s status in the National Guard.”