The DOD indicated that it will respond to Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt after his state’s National Guard suggested that it would reject a Pentagon COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all service members.
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“We are aware of the memo issued by the Oklahoma Adjutant General regarding COVID vaccination for Guardsmen and the governor’s letter requesting an exemption. We will respond to the governor appropriately,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement to media outlets on Nov. 13.
Without further elaboration, Kirby said Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin “believes that a vaccinated force is a more ready force” and that it’s “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.”
Kirby’s remarks came after the newly appointed Oklahoma National Guard commander, Army Brig. Gen. Thomas Mancino, issued a Nov. 11 memorandum indicating that he would decline to implement the Pentagon’s vaccine mandate.
The Pentagon set a June 30, 2022, deadline for all Army reservists and the National Guard to get the shot, according to a September statement from the federal Military Health System.
“I hereby order that no Oklahoma Guardsmen be required to take the COVID-19 Vaccine, notwithstanding any other Federal requirement,” Mancino wrote in his memo. “Oklahoma Command will continue to process Federal vaccine waivers in accordance with DoD policy.
“Additionally, no negative administrative or legal action will be taken against Guardsmen who refuse the COVID-19 Vaccine.”
Meanwhile, the DOD’s vaccine mandate for service members has faced numerous challenges in court, including one filed earlier this month by a group of Navy SEALs who are arguing that the Biden administration has denied them religious exemptions to the vaccine mandate.