The Army on Tuesday announced its plan to implement a mandatory coronavirus vaccine for soldiers, which was ordered by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on August 24.
The Army’s Surgeon General Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle said in a statement:
This is quite literally a matter of life and death for our Soldiers, their families and the communities in which we live… Case counts and deaths continue to be concerning as the Delta variant spreads, which makes protecting the force through mandatory vaccination a health and readiness priority for the total Army.
The Army said soldiers who refuse the vaccine will first be counseled by their chain of command and medical providers, but “continued failure to comply” could result in administrative or non-judicial punishment, including relief of duties or distance.
The service said soldiers have the ability to request an exemption from receiving the vaccine, if they have a legitimate medical, religious, or administrative reason. Soldiers who are pending exemption requests will not be subject to adverse actions until the exemption is fully processed, according to the Army.
“Soldiers may request administrative or medical exemptions as outlined in Army Regulation 600-20 and AR 40-562, as well as the new Army Directive 2021-22 that provides supplementary guidance on exemption requests,” it said.
The Army said commanders, command sergeants major, first sergeants and officers in Command Select List (CSL) positions who refuse to be vaccinated, and are not pending an exemption request, face suspension and relief if they refuse to comply.
“Prior to any adverse action, each would be notified of the suspension and potential relief from their duties. They would then be counseled and provided the opportunity to be vaccinated before they would become subject to removal from their positions by a general officer,” the Army said.
Those selected and are waiting to assume CSL command, key billet, or nominative sergeant major positions will likewise be subject to removal from the list for those assignments should they refuse to be vaccinated without a pending or approved exemption, the Army added.
The Army said commanders will request a General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand (GOMOR) for soldiers who refuse to be vaccinated and who do not have a pending or approved exemption request. “Such reprimands can be career ending,” the Army warned.
The Army said active duty units are expected to be fully vaccinated by December 15, 2021, and that Reserve and National Guard units are expected to be fully vaccinated by June 30, 2022.
The Army said soldiers with previous coronavirus infections are “not automatically exempt” from full vaccination and should consult their primary care managers.