UPDATE, NOV 30:
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has denied the request of Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (pictured) that his state’s National Guard members are exempted from the Pentagon’s Coronavirus vaccine requirements.
Austin wrote that the Biden Administration’s lawful order that promotes “the health, safety and readiness of our military personnel, regardless of duty status”. He noted that National Guard members who are not vaccinated could be banned from “participation in drills and training conducted”, jeopardizing their service status.
A spokesman for Stitt said the governor “appreciates” the letter but “maintains his position that the governor is commander-in-chief for all members of the Oklahoma National Guard”.
ORIGINAL ENTRY, NOV 18: Oklahoma’s Republican Governor Kevin Stitt has ordered the state’s National Guard to defy federal requirements for Coronavirus vaccinations.
Stitt’s command has compromised the position of the Oklahoma Guard’s commander, Brig. Gen. Thomas Mancino. He had to tell troops in a private town hall that he was following the orders to defy President Joe Biden’s directive for troops to be vaccinated or tested weekly.
“I did not initiate a civilian-military crisis just because I thought it was cool, right?” Mancino said. He explained that he has consulted with Guard lawyers and will carry out the vaccination requirement if he is placed under a federal order.
The commander noted that he and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had served together in Afghanistan, joking the former general is “a very big individual who can crush me like a bug with his hands.”
Mancino is vaccinated and encouraged his troops to do the same: “Where we differ [on the Pentagon’s directive] is my governor said it’s a personal choice on whether you do.”
Other Republican governors such as Greg Abbott of Texas and Ron DeSantis have also issued demands that the vaccine measures are not observed.
Pentagon officials said Wednesday that they can require vaccination for National Guard personnel, who may be dismissed if they defy the directive. Spokesperson John Kirby said i a statement:
e are not aware of any governor attempting to prohibit members from receiving the vaccine, and don’t see this as placing any individual member in conflict with state authorities.
Failure to receive the vaccine may jeopardize an individual member’s status in the National Guard….[Governors] may not relieve individual members of the Guard from their obligation to comply with this valid medical readiness requirement.
A Pentagon official said the Secretaries of the Army and Air Force will work with Gen. Daniel Hokanson, the head of the National Guard Bureau, with action on a “case-by-case basis”.
Far from accepting federal authority, Gov. Stitt is doubling down on his defiance. Spokeswoman Carly Atchison said multiple Republican governors have contacted Stitt about following his lead.
A “senior military official in the state” said more than five National Guard commanders in other states have contacted Oklahoma colleagues expressing interest in Stitt’s orders.
About 54% of Army Guard members, facing a June deadline, are unvaccinated. In contrast, 89% of Air National Guards members have received at least one dose before a December 12 deadline.
Oklahoma has recorded 11,708 Coronavirus deaths and 656,574 cases. Its rate of 296 deaths per 100,000 residents is the sixth-highest in the US.