600 MN National Guard troops could be casualties of military’s vaccine mandate
The pandemic may be long gone, but the government vaccine mandate for members of the military remains in effect just the same. The federal government’s purge of employees who do not comply with the requirement may soon include hundreds of members of the Minnesota Army and Air Force National Guard. The citizen soldiers faced a June 30 deadline to comply or face the consequences, according to Forum News.
More than 95% of the Guard’s 13,000 members have been vaccinated against COVID-19, but holdouts remain, said Lt. Col. Kristen Augé, the Minnesota National Guard’s State Public Affairs Officer. Of that group, nearly 2% requested a religious or medical exemption, while 3% have refused vaccination.
According to the percentages provided by military officials, it’s possible more than 600 members could face dismissal from the Minnesota National Guard, but leadership said it hopes to work with service members who have reservations about the vaccine.
If the Pentagon follows through on its directive, the National Guard stands to lose tens of thousands of members at a critical time of global instability. But there’s no indication the Army National Guard in Washington, now led by former Minnesota Adjutant General and Army Guard director Lt. Gen. Jon Jensen, has any intention of backing off.
Nationally, more than 40,000 Army National Guard soldiers, about 13% of the force, have not been vaccinated for COVID-19, according to the National Guard Bureau. Around 14,000 have declined the vaccine.
Minnesota’s National Guard is composed of around 11,000 soldiers and 2,000 airmen. The Air National Guard’s vaccination deadline was late last year.
The threat hanging over the future of so many National Guard members prompted the introduction of last-ditch legislation that would prohibit the Pentagon from spending taxpayer funds to enforce the vaccine mandate.
The legislation, first obtained by the Daily Caller, comes as up to 40,000 U.S. Army National Guard members are set to be fire Thursday for refusing to take the COVID-19 vaccine. [Tennessee Republican Sen. Marsha] Blackburn said she is introducing the legislation to protect the 40,000 guardsmen and said firing them would be a threat to U.S. national security.
“Our servicemembers are the bedrock of America,” Blackburn told the Daily Caller before introducing the legislation. “Firing 40,000 Guardsmen for refusing the COVID vaccine would be both a complete disgrace and a threat to our national security. I am honored to stand beside our National Guardsmen and women by introducing this legislation to protect them from President Biden’s forever pandemic.”
Independence Day would seem to be a fitting time for the Pentagon to announce freedom from the unnecessary mandate for the courageous members who volunteer to go in harm’s way on our behalf. But the Minnesotan leading the mandate charge appears to be all in.
“We’re going to give every soldier every opportunity to get vaccinated and continue their military career. Every soldier that is pending an exemption, we will continue to support them through their process,” Lt. Gen. Jon Jensen, director of the Army National Guard, said in an Associated Press interview regarding the vaccine mandate. “We’re not giving up on anybody until the separation paperwork is signed and completed. There’s still time.”