Army Secretary Christine Wormuth wrote in a memo on Monday, published on Wednesday, that “effective immediately, commanders will initiate involuntary administrative separation proceedings for Soldiers who have refused the lawful order to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and who do not have a pending or approved exemption request.”
Soldiers can apply for religious or medical exemptions, though approval isn’t guaranteed. In other cases, soldiers who plan on leaving the Army or begin transitioning by July 1 can seek a temporary exemption that would allow them to remain unvaccinated until their departure.
“Army readiness depends on Soldiers who are prepared to train, deploy, fight and win our nation’s wars,” Wormuth said. “Unvaccinated Soldiers present risk to the force and jeopardize readiness. We will begin involuntary separation proceedings for Soldiers who refuse the vaccine order and are not pending a final decision on an exemption.”
For the soldiers who eventually get separated over their refusal, they will be discharged under honorable or general conditions unless there is unrelated detrimental conduct to consider, as a result of a provision included in the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act, which President Joe Biden recently signed into law.
As of last week, the last time the Army released vaccination data, 96% of the active-duty force was fully vaccinated and the percentage increases by 1 point when including those who are partially vaccinated. About 79% of the Army reserve is fully vaccinated, though the Army National Guard and Reserve don’t have to be fully vaccinated until June.
Among the exemption requests, the Army has approved six of 709 permanent religious exemptions and zero of 2,910 permanent religious exemptions.
The lack of religious exemption requests has become a point of contention over the last six months since Secretary Lloyd Austin mandated the vaccine. There have been more than 13,000 such requests, but the Marines are the only branch to have granted any. The Marines have only approved three of them.
Between the Navy, Air Force, and Marines, more than 500 service members have been discharged for refusing to get the vaccine.
Original Article: https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/policy/defense-national-security/army-to-start-discharging-coronavirus-vaccine-refusers-immediately