ALL NEWS

Air Force discharges 27 people for refusal to get COVID-19 vaccine

Dec 13, 2021, 5:01 PM

Air Force vaccine...

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks during a meeting with Lithuania's Minister of Defense Arvydas Anusauskas at the Pentagon in Washington, Monday, Dec. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Air Force has discharged 27 people for refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine, making them what officials believe are the first service members to be removed for disobeying the mandate to get the shots.

The Air Force gave its forces until Nov. 2 to get the COVID-19 vaccine, and thousands have either refused or sought an exemption. Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said Monday that these are the first airmen to be administratively discharged for reasons involving the vaccine.

Related: Sen. Lee R-UT, wants safeguard against military discharge for refusing vaccine

She said all of them were in their first term of enlistment, so they were younger, lower-ranking personnel. And while the Air Force does not disclose what type of discharge a service member gets, legislation working its way through Congress limits the military to giving troops in vaccine refusal cases an honorable discharge or general discharge under honorable conditions.

The Pentagon earlier this year required the vaccine for all members of the military, including active duty, National Guard and the Reserves. Each of the services set its own deadlines and procedures for the mandate, and the Air Force set the earliest deadline. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has said the vaccine is critical to maintaining the health of the force and its ability to respond to a national security crisis.

Related: Before mandating troop vaccine, Stewart says consider national security

None of the 27 airmen sought any type of exemption, medical, administrative or religious, Stefanek said. Several officials from the other services said they believe that so far only the Air Force has gotten this far along in the process and discharged people over the vaccine refusal.

As a result, they were formally removed from service for failure to obey an order. Stefanek said it is also possible that some had other infractions on their records, but all had the vaccine refusal as one of the elements of their discharge.

It is not unusual for members of the military to be thrown out of the service for disobeying an order— discipline is a key tenet of the armed services. As a comparison, Stefanek said that in the first three quarters of 2021, about 1,800 airmen were discharged for failure to follow orders.

According to the latest Air Force data, more than 1,000 airmen have refused the shot and more than 4,700 are seeking a religious exemption. As of last week, a bit more than 97% of the active duty Air Force had gotten at least one shot.

Members of the Navy and the Marine Corps had until Nov. 28 to get the shots and their Reserve members have until Dec. 28. Army active duty soldiers have until Wednesday, and members of the Army National Guard and the Reserves have the most time to be vaccinated, with a deadline of next June 30.

Military a mirror of American society and vaccine

Across the military, the vaccine reaction has mirrored that of society as a whole, with thousands seeking exemptions or refusing the shots. But overall the percentage of troops — particularly active duty members — who quicky got the shots exceeds the nationwide numbers.

As of Dec. 10, the Pentagon said that 96.4% of active duty personnel have gotten at least one shot. The number plummts to about 74%, however, when the Guard and Reserve are included. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 72% of the U.S. population 18 and older have gotten at least one shot.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has made it clear that the Guard and Reserve are also subject to the mandate, and has warned that those who fail to comply risk their continuing members in the military. But that has proven to be contentious.

Oklahoma’s Republican governor and the state attorney general have already filed a federal lawsuit challenging the military mandate for the state’s Guard. Gov. Kevin Stitt — the first state leader to publicly challenge the mandate — is arguing that Austin is overstepping his constitutional authority.

Stitt had asked Austin to suspend the mandate for the Oklahoma National Guard and directed his new adjutant general to assure members that they would not be punished for not being vaccinated.

Austin rejected the request and said unvaccinated Guard members would be barred from federally funded drills and training required to maintain their Guard status.

Oklahoma’s adjutant general, Brig. Gen. Thomas Mancino, posted a letter on the state Guard’s website, however, warning his troops that those who refuse the vaccine could end their military careers.

“Anyone … deciding not to take the vaccine, must realize that the potential for career-ending federal action, barring a favorable court ruling, legislative intervention, or a change in policy is present,” Mancino wrote.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

All News

Former President Donald Trump walks on stage during the 2024 NRB International Christian Media Conv...

Fredreka Schouten, CNN

Wisconsin ethics panel recommends criminal prosecution for a Trump fundraising committee

A Wisconsin ethics panel is recommending that prosecutors pursue charges against one of Donald Trump’s fundraising arms.

49 minutes ago

Handcuffs are shown against a black background....

Alexander Campbell, ksltv

Salt Lake City man charged with credit union robbery

After the robbery of a Cyprus Credit Union in West Valley, a federal grand jury formally charged Joey Shaun Symond with the crime.  

2 hours ago

Police are investigating the scene at the University of Georgia in Athens where a nursing student w...

Rebekah Riess, Caroll Alvarado, Holly Yan and Jamiel Lynch, CNN

Suspect in death of Augusta University student found on UGA campus taken into custody

Campus police arrested a suspect in the killing of an Augusta University student on the University of Georgia campus in Athens.

2 hours ago

A lone American flag waves in the morning breeze Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2002, at the Bonneville Salt F...

Allessandra Harris

Water may be the solution to saving the salt flats

With the Bonneville Salt Flats eroding, newly discovered research may have found a way to save them.

13 hours ago

pay gap...

Curt Gresseth

Why is the gender pay gap not closing?

The gender pay gap in the U.S. and Utah is not closing. A Utah financial planner details the impact that wage shortfall can have on a women workers over a career.

14 hours ago

kevin and michael bacon performing, they'll stop in utah in June...

Sam Herrera

Kevin Bacon to stop in Utah this summer with Bacon Brothers band

Kevin Bacon and his brother Michael will stop by Utah this June to take part in Lehi's Round-Up concert as the Bacon Brothers band.

15 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Air Force discharges 27 people for refusal to get COVID-19 vaccine