WASHINGTON (AP), 27 Air Force personnel were discharged for refusing the COVID-19 vaccination. Officials believe they are the first to be expelled for not complying with the order to get the vaccine.
Air Force allowed its troops until Nov. 2, but thousands of them refused or requested an exemption. Ann Stefanek, spokeswoman for the Air Force, stated Monday that these were the first Air Force personnel to be administratively dismissed due to reasons related to the vaccine.
She stated that all were in their first term as enlisted, which meant they were younger and lower-ranking personnel. The Air Force doesn’t disclose the type of service member that is discharged, but legislation currently in Congress restricts the military from giving troops in vaccine refusal cases either an honorable discharge (or general discharge under honourable conditions).
In April, the Pentagon required that all military personnel, active and reserve, receive the vaccine. Each service has its own timelines and procedures. The Air Force was the first to set the deadline. Lloyd Austin, Defense Secretary, stated that the vaccine is essential to maintain the health of the force as well as its ability to respond in a national security crisis.
Stefanek stated that none of the 27 airmen requested any exemption, religious, administrative, or medical. Numerous officials from other services stated that they believed only the Air Force had made it this far and have discharged individuals for refusing to vaccinate. They were therefore formally dismissed from service because they failed to follow an order. Stefanek stated that it was possible for some to have other violations on their records. However, all of them had the vaccine refusal as part of their discharge.
Disobeying orders is an offense that can lead to military personnel being expelled from the service. Stefanek stated that about 1,800 airmen were dismissed for not following orders in the first quarter of 2021.
Air Force data shows that more than 1,000 Airmen have declined the shot, and over 4,700 are seeking a religious exemption. Last week, 97% of active duty Air Force members had received at least one shot.
The Navy and Marine Corps members had until November 28th to receive shots, while their Reserve members had until December 28th. Army active duty soldiers have until Wednesday. Members of the Army National Guard or Reserves have the longest time to get vaccinated. The deadline is next June 30,
The military’s reaction to the vaccine has been similar to the rest of society, with many people refusing shots or seeking exemptions. However, the overall percentage of troops who received the shots quickly exceeds that of the national average, especially active duty personnel.
The Pentagon reported that 96.4% had received at least one shot as of December 10. However, the Guard and Reserve make up 74% of this number. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 72% of Americans aged 18 or older have received at least one shot.
Lloyd Austin, Defense Secretary, has made clear that both the Guard and Reserve are subject to the mandate and warned that anyone who fails to do so could endanger their military service. This has proved to be contentious.
The Oklahoma Republican governor and state attorney general have filed a federal lawsuit to challenge the mandate to the Guard’s military service. Gov. Kevin Stitt, the first leader of a state to publicly challenge the mandate, is arguing that Austin has exceeded his constitutional authority.
Austin had been asked by Stitt to suspend the Oklahoma National Guard mandate and he directed his adjutant general, to assure the members that they would be treated for their ineligibility.
Austin denied Austin’s request, stating that Guard members who are not vaccinated would be excluded from federally-funded drills and training to keep their Guard status.
Brig. Brig. Thomas Mancino, Oklahoma’s adjutant general, posted a note on the state Guard website warning his troops that anyone refusing the vaccine could end his military career.
Mancino stated that anyone who decides not to get the vaccine must be aware of the possibility of a federal lawsuit ending a career, barring a favorable ruling by a court, legislative intervention or a change in policy.