ON WEDNESDAY, the US Army stated that it would begin to process discharge proceedings for soldiers who refuse the vaccine or refuse to follow the Pentagon’s vaccination mandate against COVID-19.

According to a memorandum released by the Secretary of the Army, Christine Wormuth, an involuntary separation policy directs commanders to initiate involuntary administrative separation proceedings for troops who refuse to be vaccinated for COVID-19.

“Army readiness depends on Soldiers who are prepared to train, deploy, fight and win our nation’s wars. Unvaccinated Soldiers present risk to the force and jeopardize readiness. We will begin involuntary separation proceedings for Soldiers who refuse the vaccine order and are not pending a final decision on an exemption,” she stated.

The directive was said to apply to all regular Army, soldiers of the Army National Guard, and the US Army Reserve when they have been on active duty for more than 30 days. Furthermore, the order also applies to military cadets enrolled in the Senior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps and the US Military Academy at West Point.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Paul Kovari, left, a medic with 2nd Cavalry Regiment, administers a COVID-19 vaccination to a fellow Soldier at the 7th Army Training Command's (7ATC) Rose Barracks, Vilseck, Germany, May 3, 2021 (US Army). Source: https://www.army.mil/article/246190/army_medicine_europe_makes_steady_progress_in_covid_19_vaccine_distribution
US Army Staff Sgt. Paul Kovari, left, a medic with 2nd Cavalry Regiment, administers a COVID-19 vaccination to a fellow Soldier at the 7th Army Training Command’s (7ATC) Rose Barracks, Vilseck, Germany, May 3, 2021 (US Army).

However, the Army also states that soldiers can be exempted from this directive provided that they submit requests for medical or administrative exemption from mandatory immunization. Those that have pending requests not to be vaccinated based on health or religious reasons are also exempted. If the request for exemptions is denied, soldiers are given seven days to be vaccinated or submit an appeal. Soldiers near separation or retirement were also exempted, provided they were to retire on or before July 1, 2022.  SOFREP has previous coverage of how the waiver process seems to be a farse that is conducted under a prior assumption that all requests will be denied. Under intense public scrutiny, the Marine Corps recently approved its first two religious waivers granted in more than seven years.

This comes after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered all military branches to be given vaccine shots and that all branches were given full autonomy on their timelines of implementation. This directive was given in August 2021 during initial surges of COVID-19, where 800,000 military members were yet to be vaccinated. Troops were also informed that they could get the vaccine from any US base in the world. In line with this directive, the Army set its deadline on December 15, 2021, a deadline that had already passed.

“After careful consultation with medical experts and military leadership, and with the support of the President, I have determined that mandatory vaccination against coronavirus disease​ ​…​ ​is necessary to protect the Force and defend the American people,” Austin announced.

According to the US Army’s announcement on January 26, 96% of its active members were already vaccinated. 79% of the Army Reserves were also vaccinated. Temporary exceptions were at 5,870 soldiers with 3,073 troops issued written reprimands for refusing to comply.

The actual number of service members subject to discharge may be more than 12,000 which would seem to contradict the aims of ensuring force readiness and defense of the American People as Secretary Austin as has stated.  Discharging 12,000 soldiers is akin to losing an entire Infantry Division with all their training and experience.

“Service members are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after completing the second dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine or two weeks after receiving a single dose of a one-dose vaccine,”​​ Austin further clarified.

Thus far the military is refusing to recognize a prior infection by COVID as equivalent to equal or greater protection than that provided by the vaccine. This refusal is compounded by a recent announcement by the CDC that “those who were previously infected, both with or without prior vaccination, had the greatest protection’ against hospitalizations or death from infection by the COVID varients.

As mandated by Wormuth, commanders are responsible for ensuring all soldiers comply with the new COVID-19 vaccination protocols and counsel all unvaccinated individuals on the health benefits of obtaining a vaccine.

“To those who continue to refuse the vaccine and are not pending a final decision on a medical or administrative exemption, I strongly encourage you to get the vaccine. If not, we will begin involuntary separation proceedings,” said Wormuth.

Those undergoing the involuntary separation proceedings will either be issued an Honorable or General characterization of service unless there is misconduct in their record. This is due to Congress acting in the latest Defence Appropriations Bill which prohibited the Department of Defence from making vaccine refusal the equivalent of a criminal felony in discharging servicemembers with Other Than Honorable, Bad Conduct or Dishonorable discharges.