“We are aware of the note issued by the Oklahoma adjutant general regarding the COVID vaccination for guards and the governor’s letter requesting an exemption. We will respond to the governor appropriately, ”Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement to CNN. “That said, Secretary (Lloyd) Austin believes that a vaccinated force is a more ready force. That is why he has ordered mandatory vaccines for the entire force, and that includes our National Guard, which contributes significantly to national missions at home and abroad. “
In the memo to members of the Oklahoma National Guard released Thursday and obtained by CNN affiliate KOKH-TV, Army Brig. Gen. Thomas Mancino said the Oklahoma National Guard has rejected the Department of Defense requirement that all service members receive the coronavirus vaccine and allow staff to withdraw from politics without repercussions. According to the memo, however, if mobilized federally, members must be vaccinated.
“We estimate that more than 800 Oklahoma guards have not received and are not planning to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. This constitutes 10% of Oklahoma’s overall strength, ”Stitt wrote. “It is irresponsible of the federal government to impose mandatory vaccine obligations on Oklahoma National Guardsmen, which could potentially limit the number of people I can call to assist the state in an emergency. “
Earlier this week, Stitt appointed Mancino adjutant general for Oklahoma and commander of the Oklahoma Army and Air National Guard. Mancino’s appointment must be confirmed by the Oklahoma State Senate. Former adjutant general Mike Thompson, who was brutally relieved on Wednesday, was a supporter of the Covid-19 vaccine and received a booster last month.
CNN has contacted Stitt’s office and the Oklahoma National Guard for further comment on the matter.
Earlier this year, Stitt signed into law SB 658, which largely prevented school boards from requiring masks or vaccinations except in specific circumstances.
In August, Sec. Austin said in a memo that he was directing military department services to “immediately begin full immunization” of all members of the armed forces or those in the ready reserve, including the National Guard, who are not. still fully vaccinated.
“After careful consultation with medical experts and military leaders, and with the support of the President, I have determined that the mandatory vaccination against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is necessary to protect the Force and defend the people American, ”he said.