US Army Secretary: National Guard members who refuse vaccine will not ‘continue service’

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FILE – In this May 13, 2021 file photo, Christine Wormuth, at the time the nominee to be Army secretary, speaks during a Senate Armed Services Committee nomination hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. On Tuesday, June 15, Army Secretary Wormuth was challenged by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., on the Army’s release of information to The Associated Press for its investigation into missing military weapons. Wormuth said during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that she would look into the issue. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

(The Hill) – U.S. Army Secretary Christine Wormuth this week warned members of the National Guard that they may be barred from “continued service” if they refuse to get vaccinated against COVID-19. If members persist in declining vaccination without an approved exemption, she added, they will not be allowed to “continue service.”

“I have determined that all soldiers who refuse the mandatory vaccination order will be flagged,” Wormuth wrote in a memo, according to The New York Times. This action would prevent soldiers from receiving promotions, awards, and bonuses. The Times noted that around 89% of airmen in the Oklahoma Guard are vaccinated, while only 40% of Army guardsmen can say the same.

Wormuth’s warning comes amid a continued standoff with the Oklahoma National Guard. Newly appointed Adjutant General Army Brig. Gen. Thomas Mancino has maintained that no members of the Oklahoma National Guard will be required to get vaccinated.

Earlier this month, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) asked Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to suspend the vaccine mandate for members of the Oklahoma National Guard. In a letter by Gov. Stitt, he says roughly 10% of the force “have not and do not plan” on getting vaccinated.

On Wednesday, a Defense Department official reiterated the administration’s stance on the vaccine mandate for U.S troops. The official said Austin “can establish a medical readiness requirement that applies to members of the National Guard,” adding that failure to meet this readiness requirement “could jeopardize their status in the National Guard.”

“To defend this Nation, we need a healthy and ready force. 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,” Austin wrote in an August memo.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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