About 40,000 national guard and 22,000 reserve soldiers who refused to be vaccinated against COVID-19 are no longer allowed to participate in their military duties, also effectively cutting them off from some of their military benefits, Army This was announced by officials on Friday.
“Soldiers who refuse the vaccination order without an approved or pending waiver request will be subject to unfavorable administrative measures, including flags, service bans and official reprimands,” an army spokesman said in a statement.
The move comes in the midst of the annual training season, when part-time soldiers are often assigned to serve with their units for two weeks to a month for summer training. Those training events are usually critical for soldiers to hone their military skills and for unit commanders to ensure their formations are ready to deploy if needed.
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If the soldiers continue to refuse the vaccine, the consequences could be even worse.
“In the future, soldiers who continue to refuse the vaccination order without exemption may be subject to additional adverse administrative measures, including segregation,” the army spokesman said.
The long term effect could mean many soldiers would have to leave, a devastating outcome, especially in the midst of a recruiting crisis as Defense Department officials struggle to fill the ranks†
Soldiers may enlist and their Pay to be vaccinated or to participate in divorce proceedings.
“We are going to give every soldier every opportunity to get vaccinated and continue their military career,” Army Guard Lt. Gen. Jon Jensen told Military.com in an emailed statement. “We don’t give up on anyone until the divorce papers are signed and completed.”
The Army National Guard and Reserve deadline to receive the vaccine was June 30, the latest of all services, which required vaccination last year. As of July 1, 13% of the Army Guard and 12% of the Reserve are unvaccinated.
Part-time soldiers with a pending medical or religious exemption from the vaccine may continue to train with their units and receive wages and benefits. But waiver approvals are rare.
The vaccines have some rare side effects, including heart inflammation that at least 22 service workers, according to a JAMA Network survey†
Only six Guardsmen in all states and territories have permanent medical exemptions from the vaccine, of 53 who have applied for one, according to military data. No Reserve soldiers have a medical exemption.
Not a single guard or reserve soldier has been approved for a religious exemption after nearly 3,000 requests. It is unclear what would qualify a soldier for an exemption on religious grounds. Soldiers must be vaccinated against at least a dozen other ailments, including the flu and hepatitis. And no major religious leaders have come against vaccines†
Army officials have stopped sketching a clear plan to remove part-time soldiers, especially guardsmen, because they continue to refuse the vaccine. As of now, guards alone are not allowed to participate in federally funded drills and other training events, which make up the bulk of their duty. While Guardsmen technically serve under their respective governors on their typical weekend duties, those weekends are federally funded.
Multiple Republican Governors have vowed not to kick out Guardsmen who remain unvaccinated† It is unclear how easy it will be for the Defense Department to enforce its decision to exclude unvaccinated Guardsmen from pay and benefits. On paper, the only thing an unvaccinated Guardsman is now qualified for is active-duty state warrants, a relatively rare tool for a governor to activate his Guards for short-term emergencies such as hurricane control and responding to domestic disturbances.
SAD tasks are usually short-lived. However, there are outliers such as the Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who has used SAD orders taking up to a year to mobilize thousands of troops for missions on the US-Mexico border.
But SAD duties do not qualify Guardsmen for federal benefits or retirement — effectively barring them from all military service incentives except a salary.
Reserve soldiers come under the exclusive control of the federal government, which may make it easier to separate them from duty.
On Friday, 1,148 soldiers on active duty were expelled from the army for failing to comply with the vaccine mandate.
— Steve Beynon can be reached at: [email protected]† Follow him on Twitter @StevenBeynon.
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