By Terri Jo Neff |
On Wednesday, Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth issued a directive that commanders are to begin involuntary administrative separation proceedings against any regular Army soldier, reserve-component soldier serving on Title 10 active-duty, and cadet who has refused the COVID-19 vaccination order and does not have an approved or pending exemption request.
Wormuth’s Army Directive 2022-02 (Personnel Actions for Active Duty Soldiers Who Refuse the COVID-19 Vaccination Order and Accession Requirements for Unvaccinated Individuals) was announced by U.S. Army Public Affairs. It is based on claims that Army readiness is at risk due to soldiers who are not vaccinated.
The Army has not yet involuntarily separated any soldiers solely for refusing the order to be vaccinated, but the separation proceedings are to be conducted “as expeditiously as possible,” the announcement states.
“Army readiness depends on Soldiers who are prepared to train, deploy, fight and win our nation’s wars,” said Wormuth. “Unvaccinated Soldiers present risk to the force and jeopardize readiness.”
The announcement also reveals that as of Jan. 26, Army commanders have relieved a total of six regular Army leaders, including two battalion commanders. They have also issued 3,073 general officer written reprimands to soldiers for refusing the vaccination order.
One of the two exceptions addressed in Wormuth’s directive impacts soldiers who will complete their separation or retirement, or begin a transition leave, on or before July 1. They will be granted a temporary exemption so that they may complete their separations or retirements.
In addition, unvaccinated soldiers who have requested medical exemption or religious accommodations will also be temporarily exempt from the COVID-19 vaccination requirement while their requests are reviewed.
However, unvaccinated service members, even if exempted, must continue to comply with COVID-19 screening and testing requirements and applicable safety standards. And they will face additional “counseling” with the goal of changing their minds.
“Army leaders will continue to counsel all unvaccinated individuals on the health benefits of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine,” the announcement states.
There are also some financial hits described in the directive. Service members separated for being unvaccinated will not be eligible for involuntary separation pay. And they may be subject to recoupment of any unearned special or incentive pays.