The Department of Defense (DOD) has 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.
“We are aware of the memo issued by the Oklahoma Adjutant General regarding COVID vaccination for Guardsmen and the governor’s letter requesting exemption. We will respond to the governor appropriately,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement to media outlets on Nov. 13.
Without elaborating on how the DOD would respond, 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 first military vaccine mandate deadline was Nov. 2, although each branch has set different deadlines by which members should get the vaccine for the CCP virus. 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.”
Stitt, a Republican, previously asked Austin and other Pentagon leaders for waivers regarding the COVID-19 vaccine mandate, and he’s still waiting for a decision, according to Mancino’s memo.
The memo was issued just a day after Mancino was appointed commander of the Oklahoma Army and Air National Guard, replacing Maj. Gen. Michael Thompson, who had been a proponent of COVID-19 vaccines and said Guard members would face consequences.
“The governor had been exploring making a change for a number of months, and [Gen.] Thompson had submitted his resignation,” Stitt spokesperson Carly Atchison said in a statement to The Epoch Times. “Once the governor selected [Gen.] Mancino as his replacement, the governor decided to move up the timeline.”
The Pentagon didn’t respond to a request for comment by press time.
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.
Their complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Texas, argues that the plaintiffs sought a religious exemption to the Pentagon’s vaccine mandate, but were denied the “fundamental right to the free exercise of religion and protection from agency action,” which they said “is unlawful, contrary to law, and arbitrary and capricious.”