On November 30, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin signed a memo mandating that any National Guardmember who refuses to be vaccinated against COVID-19 will be ineligible for any federal training or pay, including monthly drill weekends.
According to the Military Times, Austin’s memo read, “No credit or excused absence shall be afforded to members who do not participate in drills, training, or other duty due to failure to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.”
Unvaccinated guardsmen would be breaching their contracts and are risking being dismissed from the National Guard.
Austin’s memo was sent out shortly after he denied the Oklahoma governor’s request to exempt the state’s National Guard soldiers and airmen from the Defense Department’s (DoD) service member vaccination mandate.
In the weeks since, Oklahoma’s government and DoD have been discussing whether DoD has the authority to enforce its mandate to its troops when they are not federally mobilized, in a Title 10 status.
The National Guard also falls under Title 32, a state-controlled federal activation, which leaves the governor at the top of the chain of command.
This implies that even if Oklahoma’s adjutant general mandates his subordinates not to enforce the vaccine mandate, the DoD remains within its rights to withhold drill pay. The military departments can dismiss any noncompliant Guardsmen outside of their local chains of command.
Austin also asked that the service secretaries create similar policies with their Ready Reserve troops, who must be vaccinated by December 2 for the Air Force and June 30 for the Army.
As of November 30, over 95 percent of the Air Force’s roughly 180,000 reservists are either partially or fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Despite this, there may still be legal disputes to the vaccine mandate, but with Austin’s memo, many who were questioning the services’ stance now have their answers.