Unvaccinated soldiers in the U.S. Army National Guard and Reserve who have not received an exemption may no longer participate in federally funded drills and training and will not receive pay or retirement credit, the Army has announced.
The U.S. military branch's order dated July 1 ends pay and benefits for 62,000 soldiers and prohibits them from participating in drills and other training.
As CBN News reported last month, at least 40,000 Army National Guard soldiers across the country – or about 13% of the force – have not received the Pentagon-mandated vaccine. In addition, roughly 22,000 Reservists will also be subject to punishment, including flags, bars to service, and official reprimands, the Army said.
"In the future, Soldiers who continue to refuse the vaccination order without an exemption may be subject to additional adverse administrative action, including separation," the Army said in a statement.
"Unit commanders will be able to activate and pay Soldiers for limited administrative purposes, such as receiving the vaccine, processing their exemption requests, or conducting separation procedures. Soldiers will be paid and/or receive retirement credit for these service days," the statement continued.
The director of the Army Guard said the U.S. military service branch will continue to work with its soldiers to comply with the COVID-19 order.
"We're going to give every soldier every opportunity to get vaccinated and continue their military career," Director of the Army Guard, Lt. Gen. Jon Jensen said. "We're not giving up on anybody until the separation paperwork is signed and completed."
As CBN News reported, Guardsmen and Reservists had until June 30 to receive the COVID-19 shots. Published data reportedly indicated that 20% to 30% of the Guardsmen in six states were not vaccinated right before the deadline, along with more than 10% in 43 other states.
More than 7,700 soldiers have reportedly sought religious exemptions. According to the Army's latest statistics released on July 8, only 19 of these religious accommodations have been approved and only for active-duty personnel. So far, no exemptions have been approved for Guardsmen or Reservists.
As CBN News reported last August, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced all U.S. troops will be required to get the COVID vaccine or be forced out of their careers in the military – a move supported by President Joe Biden.
U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), a retired Navy lieutenant commander and a former Navy SEAL, criticized Austin's order on social media, and asked, "Was it worth it?"
In a series of tweets posted to Twitter on Friday, Crenshaw wrote: "And now we have the potentially disastrous situation before us - where our readiness is suffering and our military is less capable than it otherwise would be. Was it worth it? Was 'putting our foot down' worth it? H*** no, it wasn't."
In a separate tweet, Crenshaw suggested there were other ways the military could discipline service members, instead of discharging them.
"And why do we need to separate service members from the military en masse for refusal?" the Texas congressman asked. "The DOD has a huge array of disciplinary options before them. Why choose the most extreme option with the most extreme consequences?"
And now we have the potentially disastrous situation before us - where our readiness is suffering and our military is less capable than it otherwise would be.
Was it worth it? Was "putting our foot down" worth it? Hell no, it wasn't.
— Dan Crenshaw (@DanCrenshawTX) July 8, 2022
Crenshaw also pointed to the U.S. military's current problem of trying to reach recruiting goals across all of its branches.
"This is what happens when politically driven policy creates far worse problems than the ones it was trying to fix," he wrote.
Religious Rights Law Firm Seeks Legal Relief from COVID Order for All Marines
Meanwhile, Liberty Counsel is seeking class-action relief from the federal COVID shot mandate on behalf of all men and women who currently serve in the United States Marine Corps.
The Christian religious rights law firm filed an amended and supplemental complaint in a federal court in Tampa, FL earlier this month on behalf of 15 plaintiffs who currently serve in the United States Marine Corps.
Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, "Relief for these military heroes is needed now to prevent them from facing discharge, court-martial, other life-altering disciplinary procedures, and termination. We continue to fight for their freedom as no service member should be forced to choose between serving God and serving country."
All of the plaintiffs in the case are Marines who also faced a deadline to receive the COVID-19 injection that they say violates their sincerely held religious beliefs. They have all been refused any religious exemption or accommodation. Disciplinary actions have already begun for these service members.
Liberty Counsel also announced it will be filing additional amended complaints adding service members from the various branches who are located in the Tampa District. The law firm said it will continue to press for class-wide injunctive relief for all the military branches.