America’s great success story over the past five decades is its all-volunteer military. Back in 1973, the United States eliminated the draft, creating the military as it is today. While nothing close to perfect, the U.S. military has never been more professional, educated, or capable

With such volunteers, it should come as no surprise that most Americans consistently oppose military conscription.

However, after two decades at war, some now argue the all-volunteer force might be “unfair, inefficient, and unsustainable.” 

Can Military Members Be Legally Forced to Receive the COVID-19 Vaccine?

Ultimately the answer is yes, but this answer requires a bit of nuance and process. As of this writing, the president and defense secretary have not ordered mandatory vaccination for the military (or the general public, for that matter). COVID-19 vaccination remains strictly voluntary for all military servicemembers. This is consistent with Biden’s earlier pledges that he would not make vaccinations mandatory. 

But that could change in the future, particularly for deployed servicemembers who might work in tight quarters where infection rates can spike quickly

For Now, DoD Appears Committed to the Voluntary Vaccination Approach

As a statutory matter, in 2003, Congress passed a law (10 U.S.C. § 1107a) that requires informed consent before military members receiving vaccinations issued under an emergency use authorization (EUA). 

All three COVID-19 vaccines used in the United States —ModernaJohnson & Johnson, and Pfizer —are administered under an EUA. And all three have not been fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Some estimate that full approval may take up to two years.

At Fort Drum, the 10th Mountain Division Is Issuing Out Bracelets to Vaccinated Soldiers

The blue bracelets have the words “For Our Country” written on them.

These bracelets allow you to go to the gym and sit in the chow hall. They will also enable you to take leave.

Battalion Commanders have stripped Company Commanders of the authority to approve leave for someone that hasn’t been vaccinated.

Why the company cannot do this on its own is beyond me. There is maybe a lack of trust for its leaders?

Is this a way to coerce its soldiers into getting the vaccine? If so, it may be a direct violation of Army Regulation 600-20, Command Policy.

I Can See It Now, “Hey Bro, I Want to Go Workout. Let me Borrow Your Bracelet”

And it is only a matter of time before someone recreates the bracelet and sells it for $10 a pop.

Current CDC guidelines are to social distance and wear a mask. If restaurants and bars are open at 50 percent, or more, capacity, why are military commanders adding additional requirements?

Not all places we travel to require a quarantine period, especially if the soldier drives. Therefore, why is the bracelet required for leave?

Did the Commander Violate the EO Policy With the Bracelets?

According to the Military Equal Opportunity (MEO) Program, its goals are, among others, to “Ensure MEO exists for all Soldiers. Ensure every Soldier is treated with dignity and respect.”

Furthermore, MEO states that:

“Commanders are also responsible for the DA Civilian Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Program which provides equal opportunity in employment for all DA Civilians and prohibits discrimination in employment because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, genetic information, or reprisal. Commanders are responsible for sustaining a positive EEO climate within their workplace in accordance with applicable law and Federal regulations […]”

Understandably military commanders are concerned about readiness. Units must be prepared to fight and win. However, in an all-volunteer military with a voluntary vaccine, why are military commanders using coercion to ultimately force soldiers to get a vaccine they maybe do not want?