Report: Rescinded COVID Vax Order Will Not Apply to Army National Guard, Reserve
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The U.S. Army is reportedly not backing down on its COVID-19 vaccine order toward members of the National Guard and Army Reserve.
In documents obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation (DCNF), the Army's latest policy on COVID-19 vaccinations states that the provision in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) overturning the entire military's vaccination mandate does not apply to orders given to the National Guard or Reserves.
As CBN News reported on Dec. 30, the Department of Defense was forced to rescind the COVID-19 shot mandate for all military service members after Biden signed the NDAA into law.
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill had negotiated into the law that all service members would not be required to get the shot to keep their jobs. To win GOP support for the 4,408-page spending bill, Democrats agreed to Republican demands to scrap the requirement for service members to get a COVID-19 vaccination. The bill directs Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to rescind his August 2021 memorandum imposing the mandate.
However, according to the documents obtained by the DCNF, an update to the Army's virus policy, dated Dec. 22, said the measure does not address a second memo from November of 2021 applying the mandate to the National Guard and Reserves and preventing unvaccinated members mobilized under state, rather than federal orders from being paid.
The FY 2023 NDAA does not address the Secretary of Defense's directive regarding COVID-19 vaccination for members of the national guard and ready reserve (Annex AAAA)," according to FRAGO 35, an update to HQDA EXORD 225-21, that describes the Pentagon's COVID-19 policy.
Annex AAAA refers to Secretary Austin's Nov. 30, 2021 memo addressing continued resistance among National Guard troops to comply with the vaccine mandate, according to the DCNF.
Retired Lt. Gen. Rod Bishop, who serves as chairman of Stand Together Against Racism and Radicalism in the Services, told the DCNF, "I feel fairly certain that most of America, and certainly most of the congressmen I would think that supported that lifting of the mandate, thought it applied to the Guard."
"This is pretty egregious," Bishop added.
As CBN News reported last July, unvaccinated soldiers in the National Guard and Reserve who had not received an exemption could no longer participate in federally funded drills and training and would not receive pay or retirement credit.
The U.S. military branch's order which had a deadline of July 1, 2022, would have ended the pay and benefits for 62,000 soldiers and prohibited them from participating in drills and other training unless they complied with the vaccine mandate.
According to the Army's latest vaccine statistics, the National Guard has a 91% vaccination rate, with 5,440 troops refusing the vaccine. The Army Reserves has a 92% vaccination rate with 4,507 refusals.
The Army has approved a mere 14 exemption requests from the 82 National Guard troops that requested one. It also approved only 21 exemptions from the 363 reservists who had requested an exemption from the COVID shot mandate.
Unlike its active-duty troops, the Army has not discharged any National Guard members or reservists without an exemption.
CBN News reached out to the Army for comment. In an email to CBN News, Bryce S. Dubee with the Army's office of the Chief of Public Affairs, said, "While the Department of Defense is developing further guidance, the Army is suspending the processing and initiation of involuntary separations based solely on a Soldier's refusal to comply with the COVID-19 vaccine mandate."
But Dubee could not comment on the matter as it relates to the National Guard.
CBN News also reached out to the Office of the Secretary of Defense for further comment. In an email, DoD spokesman Maj. Charles Dietz said, "I can confirm that the NDAA requires that, not later than 30 days after enactment, the Secretary of Defense rescind the mandate that members of the Armed Forces be vaccinated against COVID-19. As a result, the Department will rescind the mandate and is currently in the process of developing further guidance."
"During this process, we are pausing all actions for all service members related to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate," he continued. "The health and readiness of our force are crucial to the Department's ability to defend our nation, and Secretary Austin continues to encourage all of our Service members, civilian employees, and contractor personnel to get vaccinated and boosted to ensure the readiness of our total force."
In addition, CBN News also reached out to the National Guard Bureau Media Relations for comment. In an email, National Guard spokesman Kurt Rauschenberg responded to our inquiry, saying "The National Guard will comply with the NDAA and has paused all actions related to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate while awaiting further guidance from DoD."
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