The U.S. Army last week announced the separations of three soldiers who refused to take the COVID-19 vaccine, the first time the military branch has discharged troops over the mandate.
The Army also said that so far had it relieved six of its leaders, two of whom were battalion commanders. It also issued 3,251 reprimands for soldiers who refused the vaccine, according to a March 18 statement.
“As the Army accesses and discharges Soldiers and continues to refine data tracking processes, the vaccination percentages will vary slightly,” the Army said in a statement. Army officials didn’t respond by press time to a request by The Epoch Times for comment.
Currently, the Army has 4,397 temporary vaccine exemptions, including pending requests for a permanent medical exemption or a religious accommodation, according to the statement.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Army told American Military News that the three soldiers who were discharged were the first to be separated for refusing the vaccine.
The other military branches began separations for vaccine refusal several weeks ago. The Marine Corps has discharged 1,038, the Navy 544, and the Air Force 212, according to reports.
Service members who don’t want to receive the vaccine can seek a medical, administrative, or religious exemption. So far, thousands of medical and administrative requests have been approved by the branches.
However, religious exemptions have been much more infrequent. The Navy hasn’t granted any of the 4,171 religious exemption requests; the Marines have granted six of 3,653 religious exemption requests; the Air Force has granted 23 of 7,503; and the Army has granted two out of 3,943.
In August 2021, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered all troops to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and argued it is for reasons of maintaining military readiness.
Some service members, including Navy SEALs, who were denied a religious exemption to the vaccine have filed lawsuits against the Department of Defense. Three federal judges have blocked the military from punishing members that filed lawsuits in response to the alleged violations in the treatment of religious exemptions.
Meanwhile, the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Inspector General’s Office recently announced it had opened an investigation into how the branches have handled COVID-19 vaccine exemption requests.
“The objective of this audit is to determine whether the military departments are processing exemption requests for the Coronavirus Disease–2019 vaccination and taking disciplinary actions for active duty service members in accordance with federal and DoD guidance,” Timothy Wimette, a deputy assistant inspector general in the Inspector General’s Office, said in early March.
“We may revise the objective as the audit proceeds, and we will also consider suggestions from management for additional or revised objectives.”
COVID-19 is the illness caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.