Unvaccinated members of the Oklahoma Air National Guard will not be able to serve

TULSA, Okla. — Unvaccinated members of the Oklahoma Air National Guard will not be allowed to serve, even if they are under the command of Governor Kevin Stitt, a new document released by the Secretary of the Air Force Wednesday stated.

The U.S. Air Force released its new COVID-19 guidance on Wednesday which complies with President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for all servicemen and women. It came with supplemental guidance for air national guard members whose deadline to be vaccinated passed late last week.

In it, the Secretary of the U.S. Air Force withdraws consent for members to be allowed to serve unvaccinated against COVID while they were just on state duty and under the command of the governor of their state.

“IAW 32 U.S.C. 328, the Secretary of the Air Force hereby withdraws consent for members not fully vaccinated to be placed on or to continue on previously issued Title 32 Active Guard and Reserve (AGR) orders,” the document states.

The chain of command under Title 32 status makes Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt commander in chief of the Oklahoma Air and Army National Guard. Stitt has previously said and is now suing to stop the President’s vaccine mandate for national guard members. However, things get further complicated if The Guard will need to be called up for Federal duty under Title 10. Then, Stitt’s position wouldn’t matter. President Biden would become commander in chief of the unit, and they would be subject to orders from the Pentagon who has stood firm on there being no unvaccinated members of the military.

The Air Force will classify its Air National Guard members into four categories by December 31st, 2021. Anyone not in one of those four classifications (unvaccinated members) could no longer be eligible to serve. The groups of people allowed to continue serving will be: (1) completed or have started a vaccination regimen, (2) have requested or received a medical exemption, (3) have requested or received a Religious Accommodation Request (RAR), and (4) have requested or received an administrative exemption.

“No one lost their job today,” Major Kristin Tschetter, public information officer for the Oklahoma National Guard, told FOX23. “But we are still learning about how this could play into future status later on.”

Tschetter said with a lawsuit pending in court, and the governor’s office still looking at the new guidance, we are all waiting to see how unvaccinated members should move forward with their jobs after the holidays.

“We still have a lot to go through legally and analyze what this means,” she said.

The U.S. Army’s vaccine mandate is not set to take effect until June 2022, and it is expected that the current legal battle with the Air Force will shape how the Oklahoma Army National Guard facing similar circumstances will operate in the future.

The new guidance went on to state that some unvaccinated members could have to pay back the military for special pay and incentives, and they would not be allowed to train or drill in accordance with Title 10 and Title 32.

Brigadier General Thomas H. Mancino, state adjutant general and commander of the Oklahoma Army and Air National Guard released a statement following the document.

In this statement, Mancino expressed his support for Gov. Stitt’s authority under the constitution and Title 32 to govern his forces in Oklahoma, but says, “It is a legal question as to how far that authority extends.”

“Anyone exercising their personal responsibility and deciding not to take the vaccine, must realize that the potential for career ending federal action, baring a favorable court ruling, legislative intervention, or a change in policy is present,” Mancino continued.

It is possible, an unvaccinated member could be involuntary reassigned to the individual ready reserve.

“I recognize the authority of the Secretary under 32 U.S.C. 328 to withhold consent allowing unvaccinated members to be placed on Title 32 Active Guard and Reserve (AGR) orders. This is a valid use of his authority under Title 32 and will be respected,” Mancino said.



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