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Army Begins Separation of Vaccine Refusers

Washington Report

Army Secretary Christine Wormuth has directed commanders to initiate involuntary administrative separation proceedings against any soldier who has refused a COVID-19 vaccine.

This applies to active-component soldiers, cadets and reserve-component soldiers serving on Title 10 active-duty.

Army National Guard soldiers who are not on Title 10 orders have until June 30 to be vaccinated.

Wormuth’s directive was issued last week. It applies to soldiers who do not have an approved or pending exemption request.

As of Feb. 2, the Army had approved six permanent medical exemptions for the vaccine and no permanent religious exemptions. There are more than 5,755 temporary exemptions in place, including thousands of pending medical and religious exemptions.

According to Army data, more than 97% of the active Army and 84% of the Army Reserve has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Army officials are not releasing rates for the Army Guard, which vary across the 54 states and territories.

Several states have asked to have their Guard forces exempted from the vaccine mandate, only to have those efforts rebuffed by defense leaders. Two states, Alaska and Texas, are currently involved in a legal challenge of the mandate.

To date, the Army has had 3,394 soldiers refuse the vaccine without a pending exemption and has issued 3,101 official reprimands. It has also removed six leaders, including two battalion commanders.

“Army readiness depends on soldiers who are prepared to train, deploy, fight and win our nation’s wars,” Wormuth said. “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.”

Army Directive 2022-02 requires commanders to process these separation actions as expeditiously as possible. Service members separated for refusing the vaccine will not be eligible for involuntary separation pay and may be subject to recoupment of any unearned special or incentive pays.

Soldiers who will complete their separation or retirement, or begin transition leave, on or before July 1, 2022, will be granted a temporary exemption from the directive.

Army officials said the least favorable characterization of service that may be issued is General (Under Honorable Conditions), unless additional misconduct warrants separation with an Other than Honorable characterization of service.