Neil W. McCabe, the national political editor of The Star News Network, reports from Washington about how states like Tennessee are dealing with Big Army’s June 30, 2022 deadline for National Guardsmen to be 100 percent compliant with President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s military COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
McCabe: Army Secretary Christine Warmuth set June 30th as Big Army’s deadline for 100 percent compliance with President Joe Biden’s military COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
Now National Guards across the country, such as in Tennessee, are dealing with the constitutional, emotional, and readiness costs of the president’s decision.
The mandate was passed down the chain of command to state National Guards who are now responsible for chaptering out un-vaxxed guardsmen, not Big Army.
Tennessee Republican Governor Bill Lee is sending mixed signals as the Tennessee Army National Guard presses ahead with separation boards for unvaxxed guardsmen.
His campaign spokesman sent the following message to a senior Republican leader in the state: the COVID-19 vaccine mandate is a Department of Defense requirement, but Governor Lee has approved every personal and religious exemption brought forward by members of the Guard.
The governor has advocated to the DOD that personnel who sought an exemption should receive the same exemption federally, and is currently awaiting their response.
In the meantime, Governor Lee has no plans to terminate or dishonorably discharge personnel. John Goheen, the communications director of the National Guard Association of the United States, told The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network that guardsmen are struggling with the vax mandate.
Goheen: You have to make a decision, and there’s a lot of conflicting information out there, and I’ve spoken to some people that, based upon religious convictions or concerns, didn’t want to take the vaccine.
McCabe: Goheen said guardsmen are held to the same standards as active-duty but don’t have the same access to health care. Going into its big summer recruitment season, Big Army stands at roughly 40 percent of its recruitment goal for this fiscal year.
Goheen said guard leaders are watching to see what happens to readiness if Guards across the country, like Tennessee, separate up to 400 guardsmen one Guard at a time. Reporting for The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network, Neil McCabe, Washington.