U.S. military to ‘immediately’ dismiss those who don’t comply with COVID vaccine mandate as omicron variant cases continue to rise

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WASHINGTON — The Army said Wednesday it would immediately begin dismissing soldiers who refused mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations, putting more than 3,300 service members at risk of soon being deported.

The Army’s announcement makes it the latest military service to outline its exit policy for vaccine denials. The Marine Corps, Air Force and Navy have already fired active duty troops or junior personnel at boot camps for refusing fire. So far, the army has not discharged any.

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According to data released by the army last week, more than 3,300 soldiers refused to be vaccinated. The military said more than 3,000 soldiers had received formal written reprimands, suggesting they are already identified in the disciplinary process, and some of them may be among the first to be fired.

The Pentagon has ordered all service members — active duty, National Guard and Reserves — to get vaccinated, saying it’s critical to maintaining the health and readiness of the force. COVID-19 cases continue to rise nationwide due to the omicron variant.

About 97% of all soldiers in the army have received at least one shot. More than 3,000 have applied for medical or religious exemptions.

Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth released the directive on Wednesday directing commanders to initiate involuntary separation proceedings against those who have refused the firing and do not have a pending or approved exemption.

“Army readiness depends on soldiers being ready to train, deploy, fight and win our nation’s wars,” she said. “Unvaccinated soldiers pose a risk to the force and compromise readiness. We will initiate an involuntary separation process for soldiers who refuse the order of vaccines and who are not awaiting a final decision on an exemption. .”

The order includes active duty soldiers, active duty reservists and cadets from West Point Military Academy, its preparatory school and ROTC.

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The detailed order says soldiers will be removed from service for misconduct and specifies that those who are eligible to retire can do so before July 1.

Overall, nearly 600 Marines, airmen and sailors were expelled from the military or discharged from entry-level training at boot camps last week.

The military services have followed a methodical process to deal with those who refuse the vaccine as well as those who request medical, administrative or religious exemptions. Examinations require counseling with medical staff and chaplains as well as senior commanders.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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