Politics

Pentagon plans response after Oklahoma National Guard rejects federal vaccine mandate

In a memo issued last week, the Oklahoma National Guard’s recently installed adjutant general said the Department’s vaccine mandate for its troops would not be enforced. The Pentagon has said it is “aware” of the memo and will respond appropriately. 

The vaccine was mandated in August for all U.S. military service members by the Pentagon, which says it will respond to Oklahoma’s Republican governor after the state’s National Guard said it would not be complying with the mandate.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby made a statement to CNN: “We are aware of the memo issued by the Oklahoma Adjutant General regarding COVID vaccination for Guardsmen and the governor’s letter requesting exemption. We will respond to the governor appropriately.”

He continued, “That said, Secretary (Lloyd) Austin believes that a vaccinated force is a more ready force. That is why he has ordered mandatory vaccines for the total force, and that includes our National Guard, who contribute significantly to national missions at home and abroad.” 

Back in August, Sec. Austin said he was directing the Military Department services to “immediately begin full vaccination” of all Armed Force members as well as those in the Ready Reserve, which includes the National Guard, who are not yet fully vaccinated. “After careful consultation with medical experts and military leadership, and with the support of the President, I have determined that mandatory vaccination against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is necessary to protect the Force and defend the American people,” he said.

The memo issued to Oklahoma National Guard members by Army Brig. Gen. Thomas Mancino said the state’s National Guard has rejected the Defense Department’s requirement, and service members will be able to opt out of the policy without repercussions. However, if the troops are federally mobilized, they must be vaccinated, according to the memo.

Earlier this month, Oklahoma GOP Gov. Kevin Stitt sent a letter to Sec. Austin asking for the suspension of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for members of the state’s National Guard. He wrote, “We estimate that over 800 Oklahoma guardsmen have not and do not plan on receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. This constitutes 10% of Oklahoma’s overall force.”

The letter continues, “It is irresponsible for the federal government to place mandatory vaccine obligations on Oklahoma national guardsmen which could potentially limit the number of individuals that I can call upon to assist the state during an emergency.”

ARTICLE: ELIZABETH HERTZBERG

MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE

PHOTO CREDITS: YAHOO NEWS

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