Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin ordered all members of the National Guard and Ready Reserve to get a COVID-19 vaccination or not get paid.
In a Tuesday memorandum, Austin wrote no payment for duties performed will be made “for members of the National Guard who do not comply with Department of Defense COVID-19 vaccination requirements.”
“No credit or excused absence shall be afforded to members who do not participate in drills, training, or other duty due to failure to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19,” the Defense Secretary added.
Austin’s memo came after Oklahoma GOP Gov. Kevin Stitt wrote a letter to him in early November requesting the DOD suspend the vaccination requirement for Sooner State’s National Guard.
“This mandate violates the personal freedoms of many Oklahomans, as it asks them to potentially sacrifice their personal beliefs in order to not lose their jobs. All of our national guardsmen take this calling very seriously,” Stitt said.
“These are patriotic citizens who are willing to put their lives on the line to protect others in our communities during times of greatest need.”
President Biden’s federal vaccine mandate risks the number of guardsmen our state has to help in an emergency.
— Governor Kevin Stitt (@GovStitt) November 2, 2021
The governor recounted that his state needs the full contingent of its Guardsmen to face potential natural disasters like the ice storms and tornadoes that occurred within the last year.
“According to Stitt’s office, more than 1,000 Army and Air Force Guard members, or about 13% of the state’s 8,200 troops, have indicated they won’t get the vaccine, according to an internal survey,” The Associated Press reported.
Austin responded to the governor’s letter on Monday, writing, “In making our decision to require vaccination for Service members, we considered the thousands of hospitalizations and the hundreds of deaths, among Service members, civilians, and their families.
“COVID-19 takes our Service members out of the fight, temporarily or permanently, and jeopardizes our ability to meet mission requirements.”
Photo of the Day: A Brazilian Air Force member, far left, passes on information to pararescuemen from the @106thRescueWing exit an HH-60 Pave Hawk while participating in Exercise Tapio 2021, a @fab_oficial exercise. #SPP (@Southcom) https://t.co/0sfTPpFM6F pic.twitter.com/eU7SDEzDcV
— National Guard (@USNationalGuard) September 15, 2021
The secretary further stated total force vaccination is essential to maintaining military readiness.
Austin warned that failure to get vaccinated may “jeopardize the member’s status in the National Guard.”
The AP reported that the Oklahoma Air Guard is expected to reach a 95 percent vaccination rate by this week, according to a military official.
Stitt’s spokeswoman, Carly Atchison, told the news outlet currently about 40 percent of Oklahoma’s Army Guard members are vaccinated.
The Army Guard has until next June to get the shot.
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