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Texas Military Forces Must Vaccinate or be Discharged

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Military Soldier receiving the COVID-19 Vaccine. | Image from Kenny Holston, The New York Times

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On December 7, 2021, the Texas Military Department told Texas Army National Guard leadership that their members must receive a COVID-19 vaccination by June 2022.

If they do not comply with the order, these members could be discharged from their positions, according to sources in the Texas Military Department.

Jeramy Kitchen of Texas Scorecard reported that members who have not received vaccinations would not receive drill pay until they become vaccinated beginning in December.

December 2 was the deadline for the Texas Air National Guard.

The Texas Scorecard reported that a witness said, “In a briefing this morning, the Texas Military Department indicated that members of the Texas Army National Guard and Texas Air National Guard will have to receive the COVID-19 vaccination by June of 2022 or face discharge and they will not receive their monthly drill pay starting this month until they do.”

Vaccine mandates constitute a significant issue for many conservatives in Texas.

Bans on employer vaccine mandates were added to the most recent special session agenda by Governor Abbott but were not definitively addressed. Governor Abbott issued an executive order prohibiting employer vaccine mandates until the Legislature takes action.

On December 7, 2021, Abbott went on Twitter to praise a federal court decision in Georgia placing an injunction on vaccine mandates for federal contractors. That same day the Texas Military Department issued its mandatory vaccination policy for its members.

State military bodies in several states have rebuffed the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate policies.

In neighboring Oklahoma, Governor Kevin Stitt announced that Oklahoma National Guard members would not be required to receive COVID-19 vaccinations.

This move was in open defiance to a Pentagon directive making vaccinations compulsory for all military members, including the National Guard. Individual service branches, such as the Army and Navy, were directed to set their own vaccination deadlines.

This incident has created a dispute between the Department of Defense and the Oklahoma state government. The latter argued that while Federal orders deploy national Guard members, they operate under the jurisdiction of a respective state’s governor. Therefore, they are not subject to federal mandates.

As a result of this dispute, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin issued a directive on November 30 outlining that National Guard members who do not receive a COVID-19 vaccination will have their compensation withheld and be prevented from receiving further training.

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