The Oklahoma National Guard will not enforce Biden’s vaccine mandate

The new head of the Oklahoma National Guard said none of its members will currently be required to be vaccinated for COVID-19, a move that is contrary to the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for the military.

Unless federally mobilized, the guards do not need to be vaccinated for COVID-19, according to an order issued Thursday by New Adjutant General Thomas Mancino. No negative administrative or legal action will be taken against security guards who refuse the COVID-19 vaccine. The Oklahoma Command will continue to address federal vaccine exemptions in accordance with Department of Defense policy.

FILE - In this archive photo from February 11, 2021, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt speaks at a news conference in Oklahoma City.  Governor Stitt signs three abortion bills.  Stitt announced on Twitter on Monday, April 26, 2021, that he had signed bills requiring doctors performing abortions to be certified in obstetrics, adding performing abortions to the list of doctors' unprofessional behavior and banning abortions of fetal heartbeat.  (AP Photo / Sue Ogrocki File)

FILE – In this archive photo from February 11, 2021, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt speaks at a news conference in Oklahoma City. Governor Stitt signs three abortion bills. Stitt announced on Twitter on Monday, April 26, 2021, that he had signed bills requiring doctors performing abortions to be certified in obstetrics, adding performing abortions to the list of doctors’ unprofessional behavior and banning abortions of fetal heartbeat. (AP Photo / Sue Ogrocki File)

Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt recently appointed Mancino to replace Adjutant General Michael Thompson, who had led the Oklahoma National Guard since 2017, The Oklahoman reported. By comparison, Thompson had supported vaccination for most guardsmen, with some exceptions.

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“This policy is not anti-vaccine. I and the governor are both vaccinated,” Mancino said in a statement released Saturday. “I urge all of our Oklahoma Guard members to be vaccinated if they choose to do so. We want to train and inform our soldiers and pilots so they can make an informed decision regarding the DoD vaccine mandate.”

Under section 32, Congress established a dual framework for the National Guard, Mancino explained. States receive federal funding in return for being made available to the federal government when the president calls them into active service. Under Title 32, the Oklahoma National Guard is a state-controlled and federally funded entity and receives orders from the governor and his designated chain of command. When mobilized by the president, under Title 10, the Oklahoma National Guard takes all orders from the president and his designated chain of command, Mancino said.

“Failure to follow the governor’s lawful orders while he is on Title 32 would be both illegal, unethical and against our sworn oaths. Nothing in this order prevents anyone from taking the vaccine,” Mancino said. “Nothing in his order eliminates the federal claim either. The governor is hoping for federal relief from Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and has meanwhile given the state exemption from that claim.”

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will hold a briefing in Tbilisi on October 18, 2021. (Photo by VANO SHLAMOV / AFP via Getty Images)

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will hold a briefing in Tbilisi on October 18, 2021. (Photo by VANO SHLAMOV / AFP via Getty Images)
(VANO SHLAMOV / AFP via Getty Images)

On October 22, the governor issued a decree expressing opposition to President Biden’s vaccination requirements for federal contractors, as Stitt noted, “vaccines work and are effective, but they should not be mandated by any government to free citizens.”

Earlier this month, Stitt had also asked U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to suspend a requirement that Oklahoma National Guard members receive COVID-19 vaccination, noting that 800 soldiers, or 10% of the guard, had not yet been vaccinated for COVID-19 or do not intend to receive the inoculations.

“The governor’s request is with Secretary Austin for decision, and the National Guard Bureau has indicated it will conduct a legal review of our position,” Mancino said. “The right place to resolve these issues is the governor’s office, Congress and the federal executive branch. Not the public opinion court in the press or on social media.”

“The clarified policy of COVID vaccinations for the Oklahoma Army and Air National Guardsmen reflects the governor’s ability to assert his command authority over the men and women of the Oklahoma National Guard while within state borders,” said Lieutenant Colonel Geoff Legler, a spokesman for the Guard. says to The Oklahoman. “The clarification will allow our unvaccinated guards to continue serving in Oklahoma without any negative repercussions, but it does not provide any protection should they need to attend a military school or training activity run by an active service component or the Department of Defense.”

In previous guidance, which was overridden by Mancino’s order, Thompson outlined potential sanctions for guards who were not vaccinated, including inability to mobilize or receive training at federal military installations. He noted, however, that Stitt’s order prevented the Oklahoma Military Department from requiring state employees to be vaccinated or show evidence of vaccination.

Thompson’s guide emphasized the effectiveness of the vaccine in preventing and reducing the severity of the virus, saying: “All staff will have the opportunity to receive the vaccine. Uniformed members and Title 5 federal civil servants who choose not to receive the vaccine will be advised of the consequences of not to be vaccinated. These consequences will depend on the status of the individual. “

“But freedom is always the standard in Oklahoma,” Thompson wrote. “Deciding whether we should be vaccinated is ultimately a personal choice that each of us has to make. This personal decision regarding vaccination, like any other, will have consequences.”

Thompson’s resignation will not take effect until January 15, 2022.

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“The governor had been considering making a change for a number of months, and (Gen.) Thompson had resigned,” with effect from January, Stitt spokeswoman Carly Atchison told the Associated Press. “When the governor chose (Gen.) Mancino as his successor, the governor decided to move up the timeline.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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