The Army on Thursday said it would immediately begin discharging soldiers who have refused to receive the mandatory COVID-19 vaccine, putting more than 3,300 service members at risk of being ousted soon.
The military’s announcement makes it the last military service to formulate its discharge policy for vaccine refusers. The Marine Corps, Air Force and Navy have already discharged active-duty soldiers or entry-level personnel for refusing shots at boot camps. Till now the army has not discharged anyone.
According to the data released by the army last week, more than 3,300 soldiers have refused to take the vaccine. The military has said that official written reprimands have been issued to more than 3,000 soldiers, revealing they have already been identified in the disciplinary process, and that some of them may be the first to be discharged.
The Pentagon has ordered all service members — active-duty, National Guard and Reserves — to receive the vaccine, saying it is vital to maintaining the health and readiness of the force. COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the country as a result of the Omicron variant.
Roughly 97 percent of all Army soldiers have received at least one shot. More than 3,000 have requested medical or religious exemptions.
Army Secretary Christine Wermuth issued instructions on Wednesday ordering commanders to initiate involuntary separation proceedings against those who have been denied shots and do not have pending or sanctioned waivers.
He said that the preparedness of the army depends on the soldiers who are ready to train, deploy, fight and win the wars of our country.
Uninvolved troops present a risk to the force and jeopardize preparedness. We will initiate involuntary isolation proceedings for soldiers who decline a vaccine order pending a final decision on waivers.
The command includes active-duty soldiers, reserve serving on active duty, and cadets at the Military Academy at West Point, its preparatory school, and the ROTC.
The detailed order said soldiers would be discharged for misconduct, and added that those who are eligible to retire can do so before July 1.
Overall, more than 650 Marines, airmen and sailors have been kicked out of the military or dismissed from entry-level training in boot camps, according to data released by the services this week and last week.
Military services are going through a systematic process of dealing with vaccine denials as well as those requesting medical, administrative or religious exemptions. Reviews require consultation with medical personnel and clergy, as well as senior commanders.
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