Defense secretary warns Oklahoma's GOP governor that troops who don't get COVID-19 vaccine are putting their careers in jeopardy

·2 min read
  • The US defense secretary denied a request to exempt Oklahoma National Guard troops from the federal vaccine mandate. 

  • Stitt, a Republican, made the request on Nov. 2 for Austin to exempt Oklahoma Guardsmen.

  • Austin said troops who are not in compliance could lose their federal recognition.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin denied a request from Oklahoma's governor to exempt the state's National Guard troops from the Pentagon's vaccine mandate. 

In a letter sent to Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt on Monday, Austin did not specify how the mandate would be enforced but said that failure to comply with the vaccine mandate may "jeopardize" troops' status in the National Guard.

"In making our decision to require vaccination for Service members, we considered the thousands of hospitalizations and the hundreds of deaths, among Service members, civilians, and their families," Austin wrote. "COVID-19 takes our Service members out of the fight, temporarily or permanently, and jeopardizes our ability to meet mission requirements."

lloyd austin
Secretary of Defense, retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin testifies at his confirmation hearing on January 19, 2021 in Washington, DC.Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images

Stitt, a Republican, made the request in early November for Austin to exempt Oklahoma Guardsmen from the vaccine mandate. On November 2, Stitt wrote that the mandate "violates the personal freedoms of many Oklahomans, as it asks them to potentially sacrifice their personal beliefs in order to not lose their jobs."

—Oren Liebermann (@OrenCNN) November 29, 2021

In the Monday response to Stitt, Austin wrote that the concerns raised by the governor "do not negate the need for this important military readiness requirement."

Charlie Hannema, a spokesperson for Stitt, told the Associated Press that Stitt "maintains his position" that he is "the commander-in-chief for all members of the Oklahoma National Guard while they are on Title 32 status," meaning while they are considered active duty under state control but the federal government provides pay and benefits.

Brig. Gen. Thomas Mancino, the commanding general of Oklahoma's National Guard, issued a memo on November 11 exempting Oklahoma National Guard troops from the COVID-19 vaccine mandate. In a recording obtained by The Washington Post, Mancino said he was only following orders from the governor when he issued the order. 

Read the original article on Business Insider