National Guard members to be ‘flagged’ if not vax compliant, will face host of penalties

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The National Guard has words for anyone who won’t take the Covid-19 vaccine: you won’t be staying for long.

Christine Wormuth, secretary of the Army, has issued a memo stating that soldiers in the Army National Guard who do not comply with the mandatory Covid-19 vaccination policy will, not surprisingly, be subject to a host of various penalties, the New York Times reported.

“I have determined that all soldiers who refuse the mandatory vaccination order will be flagged,” part of the memo states, indicating that such soldiers will be marked and noted in the army’s personnel system. Being thusly flagged will bar affected soldiers from receiving any promotions, awards, or bonuses.

In addition, any soldiers flagged for refusing the vaccine will not be allowed to perform “continued service” without an approved exemption. This presumably means a bar on re-enlistment, though possibly could also entail a discharge regardless of time in service remaining on a contract.

This policy is consistent with the overall mandate all service members have for the Covid-19 vaccination. A memo from Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, dated August 24th of this year, laid out the policy:

“Mandatory vaccinations are familiar to all of our Service members, and mission-critical inoculation is almost as old as the U.S. military itself. Our administration of safe, effective COVID-19 vaccines has produced admirable results to date, and I know the Department of Defense will come together to finish the job, with urgency, professionalism, and compassion. I therefore direct the Secretaries of the Military Departments to immediately begin full vaccination of all members of the Armed Forces under DoD authority on active duty or in the Ready Reserve, including the National Guard, who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19.”

 

However, there is some gray area on this policy in regards to the National Guard, who are under the control of their respective states unless they receive federal activation (national guard members swear to obey lawful orders from their governor, rather than the president, for example). In Oklahoma, the National Guard is not being required to get the Covid-19 vaccine, as stated in a press release from the Oklahoma National Guard:

“Under Title 32, the Oklahoma National Guard is a state-controlled and federally-funded entity and takes orders from the Governor and his designated chain of command. When mobilized by the President, under Title 10, the Oklahoma National Guard takes all orders from the President and his designated chain of command. Until a Guardsman is activated under Title 10, they follow the lawful commands of the Governor of the State of Oklahoma, who has not mandated the COVID-19 vaccine for Oklahoma Guard Members.”

 

Nevertheless, the Pentagon still has considerable influence over the maintenance, training, and equipping of National Guard soldiers, who are integrated with the Army’s overall personnel system. It remains to be seen what states could do to resist this policy – if they even desired to.

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