The Army announced Friday that unvaccinated National Guard members and reservists who missed the deadline to be fully-vaccinated by Thursday will not be allowed to participate in federally-funded drills or training, and will not be paid or receive retirement credit.
“Beginning July 1, 2022, members of the Army National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve who have refused the lawful [Department of Defense] COVID-19 vaccination order without an approved or pending exemption may not participate in federally funded drills and training and will not receive pay or retirement credit,” the Army said in a press release.
The number of unvaccinated Army National Guard soldiers across the country could be up to 40,000, according to a recent Associated Press report, though that includes roughly half who have applied for exemptions and are awaiting responses.
Still, Army officials acknowledge that if 40,000 remain unvaccinated, it could affect military readiness or National Guard missions such as the ongoing one at the nation’s southern border.
“When you’re looking at, 40,000 soldiers that potentially are in that unvaccinated category, absolutely there’s readiness implications on that and concerns associated with that,” Lt. Gen. Jon Jensen, director of the Army National Guard told the AP. “That’s a significant chunk.”
At least 18,000 National Guard and reserve soldiers who have flatly refused will be immediately affected. And while the National Guard forces may still be activated and paid by their state, they could be kicked out eventually, the Army said. The Army said in its press release:
Soldiers who refuse the vaccination order without an approved or pending exemption request are subject to adverse administrative actions, including flags, bars to service, and official reprimands. In the future, Soldiers who continue to refuse the vaccination order without an exemption may be subject to additional adverse administrative action, including separation.
About 13% of National Guard troops and 12% of Army Reserve soldiers are not fully-vaccinated, despite the Army’s deadline for part-time soldiers passing on June 30, 2022.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in August 2021 ordered all service members to be vaccinated or face discharge from the military.
So far, only 1,148 active duty Army soldiers have been discharged, though thousands more are expected to be discharged as more exemption requests are denied or temporary accommodations expire.
The Army claimed its policy “affords every Soldier the opportunity to request an exemption, such as for medical or religious concerns,” and that each request is reviewed “on an individual basis.”
However, only 19 out of nearly 6,000 religious exemption requests have been approved in the Army so far.
Republican lawmakers say across all the military services, religious exemption requests are only being granted to service members who are already planning to leave the military.
The deadline for active-duty Army soldiers to be vaccinated passed in December, but deadlines for the Army National Guard and Reserve were set later.