The Army says it will start booting out soldiers who refuse to take the COVID-19 shot only days after yet another fully-vaccinated and boosted senior Pentagon official tested positive for the coronavirus.
Military commanders are ordered to initiate involuntary administrative separation proceedings against any soldier who has refused the COVID-19 vaccination order and doesn’t have an approved or pending request for an exemption, Army officials announced Wednesday.
“Army readiness depends on soldiers who are prepared to train, deploy, fight and win our nation’s wars,” Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth said. “Unvaccinated soldiers present risk to the force and jeopardize readiness.”
The order applies to active-duty soldiers, troops in the reserves or National Guard who are on active-duty status, and Army cadets.
“Commands will process these separation actions, from initiation to a soldier’s potential discharge, as expeditiously as possible,” according to the directive, formally issued on Jan. 31.
Troops who are separated over COVID-19 vaccine refusal won’t be eligible for any involuntary separation pay and may be subject to recoupment of any unearned or incentive pays, the Army said.
As of Jan. 26, 96% of the active duty Army has been fully vaccinated. The Army received 709 requests for a permanent medical exemption and approved six. It also received more than 2,900 requests for religious accommodation but approved none, according to Army records.
To date, Army commanders have relieved six unidentified “Regular Army leaders” — including two battalion commanders — over their refusal to take the vaccine. More than 3,000 general officer written reprimands have been issued to soldiers for refusing the shots.
Unvaccinated soldiers who have requested exemptions - whether medical or religious - are temporarily exempt from the COVID-19 vaccination requirement while their requests are under review.
After receiving a denial, they will have a week to either begin the vaccination regime or submit an appeal. If the appeal is denied, they will have seven days to accept the shots or face separation from the service, the Army said.
The Army’s COVID-19 crackdown comes two days after Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro confirmed that he was going into quarantine after testing positive for the coronavirus.
“I am grateful to be fully vaccinated and to have received the booster shot in October as I know my symptoms could be far worse,” Mr. Del Toro said in a Jan. 31 statement.
Mr. Del Toro’s name has been added to a growing list of high-ranking Pentagon officials who recently contracted COVID, including Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin; Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Gen. David Berger, the commandant of the Marine Corps. All reported having mild symptoms.
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