Oklahoma National Guard Defies the Pentagon’s COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate – Community News

Oklahoma National Guard Defies the Pentagon’s COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate

The adjutant general of the Oklahoma National Guard has openly defied the Department of Defense by stipulating that none of its guards will be punished for refusing to be vaccinated against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Army Brig. General Thomas Mancino issued a memo on Nov. 11 exempting Oklahoma National Guard troops from the Department of Defense’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, just one day after he was appointed by Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, according to Carmen Forman, a reporter for The Oklahoman newspaper.

An Oklahoma National Guard spokesman deferred questions about the vaccine brouhaha to Charlie Hannema, Governor Stitt’s spokesman, who told Task & Purpose that the Governor had ordered Mancino to issue the memo.

Under Title 32 of the U.S. Code, the National Guard falls under the governor of a state or territory unless those soldiers and pilots are activated for a federal mission, Hannema said.

“It is the governor’s position that as commander in chief he is the one with the power to enforce policy while on state duty,” said Hannema, adding that he is not aware of the exoneration of the troops from the government. Oklahoma National Guard’s only other defense. Department requirements.

This isn’t the first time the Oklahoma National Guard has risen up against Department of Defense policies. In 2013, Oklahoma was one of nine states that initially refused to issue military identification to National Guard same-sex spouses, despite official Department of Defense policies. Then-Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel ordered the chief of the National Guard Bureau to meet with each state’s adjutants general to resolve the issue. The case was settled in December.

Oklahoma National Guard leader conducts medical mutiny against Pentagon's COVID-19 vaccine mandate
A soldier has a dose of COVID-19 vaccine at the Harrison County Health Department in Gulfport, Miss., Jan. 5, 2021. The Mississippi National Guard worked with the Mississippi Department of Health to vaccinate health workers. (Photo of the US National Guard by A. Danielle Thomas)

On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had not responded to a Nov. 1 letter from Stitt asking that the Oklahoma National Guard be released from his order in August, requiring all military personnel to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

While the National Guard reports to their governors, they must also meet federal requirements to attend schools, train and deploy, Kirby said at a Pentagon news conference.

“The secretary clearly has the authorities he needs to establish mission requirements to defend this nation and the vaccine mandate falls within those authorities,” Kirby said. “It’s the right thing to do for each individual member and for their units – well, their families. It’s the right thing to do.”

Notably, defense officials have failed to say how the Pentagon can force Oklahoma’s guards to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Kirby became annoyed Tuesday when a reporter asked him if the Department of Defense has the authority to enforce his vaccine mandate while the Oklahoma National Guard is on state warrant.

“All active and reserve military personnel, including members of the National Guard, must meet medical readiness requirements established by the Secretary of Defense,” Kirby replied. “Continued service and participation and service by all service personnel requires them to meet such medical readiness requirements. Next question.”

Oklahoma National Guard leader conducts medical mutiny against Pentagon's COVID-19 vaccine mandate
U.S. soldiers with the Oklahoma National Guard discuss troop allocations in Washington, DC, Jan. 20, 2021. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Rebecca Imwalle)

But experts say the law may be on the side of the Oklahoma National Guard, as the Defense Department’s vaccination requirement would only apply if the Guardsmen were placed under federal order.

“One way this whole thing could go away is if the whole Guards were federalized, but you’re talking about a big stake here,” said Butch Bracknell, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel who served as legal counsel for the United States Navy. 1st Marine Division. .

For example, if the entire Oklahoma National Guard were federalized in response to tornadoes, floods or other natural disasters, Mancino would lose his power to exempt his guards from the Department of Defense vaccine mandate, Bracknell said.

The federal government also supplies the Oklahoma National Guard with its equipment and much of its funding, both of which could theoretically withhold the Department of Defense from pushing state guards to meet vaccine requirements, retired army colonel said. Michael Linick, a defense researcher at the RAND Corporation.

“Those would definitely be options available to the Pentagon,” Linick said. “Obviously they have major political implications. But these are policy decisions and political decisions. It would be interesting to see how that plays out between the government, Congress and the other 53 governors.”

The administration of President Joe Biden also has the option of removing Mancino from the National Guard by revoking his federal recognition as a National Guard officer, said Rachel VanLandingham, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and Southwestern professor. Law School in Los Angeles.

“Of course the issue is bigger than one adjutant general as this is a governor’s project, but Secretary Austin simply cannot and should not tolerate such public opposition,” she said.

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