Colorado National Guard will not disclose if troops comply with vaccination mandate
The Defense Secretary has ordered all National Guard troops to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, but the Colorado National Guard, which has been called on multiple times to help the state’s health care system during the pandemic , will not disclose how many of its troops have complied.
A November 30 memo from Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said those who did not obey the order would lose their pay and not be allowed to participate in weekend drills and other missions. But Austin has left it up to the National Guard bureau chief and Army and Air Secretaries to figure out how to discipline those who fail to comply.
Colorado National Guard spokeswoman Elena O’Bryan declined to say whether any of the state‘s 3,800 troops or 1,700 airmen had been sanctioned for refusing to be vaccinated.
In some states, governors are pushing against the Department of Defense vaccine requirement. Oklahoma, Wyoming, Iowa, Alaska, Nebraska and Mississippi sent a joint letter to Austin asking it to reverse its order banning troops from attending exercise weekends and d ‘other compulsory training under the authority of their States.
Conor Cahill, spokesperson for Governor Jared Polis, said in a statement, “Members of the Colorado National Guard have stepped up to help our state meet the challenges of the pandemic, the establishment and the operating testing sites for historic safe and effective vaccine distribution; and volunteering away from family. The governor encouraged everyone, including members of our National Guard, to receive the safe, doctor-approved vaccine and to receive a third dose. “
During the pandemic, Colorado National Guard troops operated mass testing and vaccination sites and are on standby again if necessary to run COVID-19 test sites or deliver supplies to hospitals as the omicron variant spreads rapidly.
In December 2020, two members of the Colorado National Guard tested positive for what was later named the alpha variant of COVID-19 after being sent to Elbert County to help with staffing. a nursing home during an epidemic. These are the first cases of the new variant in the United States.
Nationally, 68.64% of National Guard troops were fully immunized as of December 13, with 74.2% of them receiving a dose, according to data provided by the National Guard Bureau. Approximately 440,000 people serve in the National Guard across the United States. The Air National Guard does better than its Army Guard counterpart with 91.2% of airmen fully vaccinated compared to 61.4% of Guard soldiers, according to the data.
While the Office of the National Guard will release immunization data at the federal level, it is up to state commanders to report publicly on the number of their soldiers who have been shot, said Wayne Hall, spokesperson for the office. of the National Guard.
But O’Bryan said it was an operational security issue and the numbers would not be released.
“Every soldier must be ready for the mission,” said O’Bryan. “If they don’t get the vaccine, then they’re not ready to serve the mission.”
Unless called upon to support a national military mission, National Guard troops come under the command of the adjutant general and the governor of their state, but the Secretary of Defense still has authority over the members, including including the possibility of ordering them to be vaccinated.
The Air Force has set a deadline of December 2 for Guard troops to be vaccinated. Active-duty airmen were due to be vaccinated from November 2 and earlier this month the Air Force announced it had fired 27 members for refusing to fire. Army officials said more than 3,800 troops refused to be vaccinated before the Dec. 15 deadline and could be kicked out of the military next month, the Associated Press reported.