Defiance of the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate has reached new heights as the new commander of the Oklahoma National Guard has openly declared that the mandate no longer applies to those under his command.
Army Brig. Gen. Thomas Mancino made the announcement on Thursday in a memo regarding vaccinations.
Republican Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Mancino’s appointment on Wednesday.
“I hereby order that no Oklahoma Guardsman be required to take the COVID-19 vaccine, notwithstanding any other Federal requirement,” Mancino wrote in the memo. “Oklahoma Command’s will continue to process Federal vaccine waivers in accordance with DoD policy.”
📝READ: One of first actions taken by new Oklahoma National Guard Adjutant Gen. Thomas Mancino: rescind the #COVID19 vaccine requirement for Guardsmen.
— Dan Snyder (@DanSnyderFOX25) November 12, 2021
“Additionally, no negative administrative or legal action will be taken against Guardsmen who refuse the COVID-19 vaccine,” he wrote. “Additional implementation policy may be forthcoming.”
“The clarified policy on COVID vaccinations for Oklahoma Army and Air National Guardsmen reflects the governor’s ability to assert his command authority over the men and women of the Oklahoma National Guard while they are within the state’s borders,” said Lt. Col. Geoff Legler, a spokesman for the guard, according to The Oklahoman.
“The clarification will allow our unvaccinated Guardsmen to continue to serve in Oklahoma without any negative repercussion, but it does not provide any protection should they need to attend any military school or training activity run by an active-duty component or the Department of Defense,” he said.
On Nov. 2, Stitt asked the Department of Defense to not enforce the vaccine mandate on Oklahoma’s Army and Air National Guard members, noting 10 percent of his state’s guardsmen “have not and do not plan on receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. “
“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. 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,” Stitt wrote.
Stitt said the state needs the Guard to deal with weather-related disasters, and cannot afford to lose any members.
“We estimate that over 800 Oklahoma guardsmen have not and do not plan on receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. This constitutes 10% of Oklahoma’s overall force. It is irresponsible for the federal government to place mandatory vaccine obligations on Oklahoma national guardsmen which could potentially limit the number of individuals that I can call upon to assist the state during an emergency,” he wrote.
Mancino replaced Army Maj. Gen. Michael Thompson as the head of Oklahoma’s National Guard. Thompson was a strong supporter of adhering to the controversial vaccine mandate.
The Defense Department “will respond to the governor appropriately,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement, according to Army Times.
“That said, Secretary Austin believes a vaccinated force is a more ready force,” said Kirby. “That is why he has ordered mandatory vaccines for the total force, and that includes our National Guard, who contribute significantly to national missions at home and abroad.”
The National Guard Bureau has issued an order requiring all Guard members to be fully vaccinated by June 30, 2022, according to Stars and Stripes.
However, a bureau spokesman, Air Force Sgt. Matt Murphy, said it is unclear if the federal government can overrule the state.
“It’s a legal gray area that would have to be reviewed by our lawyers,” he said.
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