No Pay or Training for Guardsmen Who Refuse Vaccination, Pentagon Says

The National Guard members who refuse COVID-19 vaccination will be barred from federally funded drills and training required to maintain their Guard status, the US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has decided on Tuesday, reacting to the Guardsmen’s resistance to vaccine mandate.

The internal memo in which Austin spelled out the policy, instructs the leaders of the military services to establish policies and implementation guidance by next week on dealing with members of the non-federalized National Guard who fail to meet military medical readiness requirements by refusing the vaccine.

Reiterating his claim that vaccination is essential to the health and readiness of the Force, Secretary Austin has revealed the ultimatum could also affect soldiers’ pay since the service will withdraw the federal funding for payment of duties to those who refuse the jab.

Austin’s memo also makes clear the Pentagon can enforce the vaccine mandate even while Guardsmen are on state duty, a point that Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt has argued against.

The Oklahoma state National Guard has been engaged in a standoff with the Pentagon since Gov. Stitt’s request in November that his state’s Guard be exempt from vaccine requirements, which was rejected this week.

Brigadier General Thomas Mancino, Commander of the Oklahoma National Guard’s 45th Infantry Brigade, told his soldiers earlier this month that they’ll face no negative administrative or legal action if they refuse vaccination despite Pentagon’s repeated warnings that refusal could jeopardize their status in the National Guard even if they serve under state control instead of federal.

In line with what is known as Title 32 status, Guard troops report to their governor and are paid by their state when they are on state active duty, such as responding to local emergencies but are funded by the federal government during monthly or annual training or when they are responding to larger emergencies in the state.

That is different from situations in which Guardsmen may be called to active duty for federal service, known as Title 10 status.

Pentagon mandates all members of the military to be vaccinated unless they obtain an official waiver for medical or other reasons, and has set varying deadlines to active and reserve forces. Air Guard members, for example, must be vaccinated by December while the Army Guard members have until June to get the jab.

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