(Big League Politics) – The Adjutant General of the Oklahoma National Guard is repealing the Pentagon’s vaccine mandate as it pertains to the state force, becoming the first general officers in the military to remove a mandate that critics say has negatively impacted combat readiness of the Armed Forces.
General Thomas Mancino issued a memo on Thursday ordering that no service member receive negative legal or administrative action for declining the coronavirus vaccine. General Mancino had assumed the billet of adjutant general on Wednesday, a position equivalent to the commanding officer of a state National Guard.
“The clarified policy on COVID vaccinations for Oklahoma Army and Air National Guardsmen reflects the governor’s ability to assert his command authority over the men and women of the Oklahoma National Guard while they are within the state’s borders,” said Lt. Col. Geoff Legler, a spokesman for the guard.
Vaccine mandates have proved detrimental to military retention and readiness, at times amounting to a purge of elite special forces units. A group of 35 Navy SEALs are parties to a lawsuit objecting to the Pentagon’s denial of religious exemptions to vaccines.
Because the National Guard is normally subject to state authority rather than federal, General Mancino’s order is subject to a different legal standard than the vaccine mandate as it pertains to the federal, active duty Army(and other branches). However, it’s a possibility that the Pentagon may pressure Mancino to repeal the order, potentially through holding back federal funding of the Oklahoma Guard until a vaccine mandate is reinstated.
Green Beret Army veteran Joe Kent, running for Congress in Washington, has proposed legislation to offer service members separated for declining the vaccine a path back into the military. It’s a possibility such a law could come to fruition if the GOP retakes Congress in 2022.