The U.S. Navy and Air Force have begun dismissing sailors and airmen for violating the military’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
According to a report from Politico Wednesday, the Navy has about 5700 sailors still unvaccinated, and officials admitted that more than two weeks after the November 28 deadline that those members will remain unvaccinated in violation of the military order.
“If a sailor gets their shot, we will honor that and make every effort to retain them,” said Rear Admiral James Waters, Director of Military Personnel Plans and Policy. “On the other hand, those who continue to refuse the vaccine will be required to leave the Navy.”
Under Navy regulations, officers and enlisted sailors who still refuse the vaccine, if eligible to retire or resign by June 1, 2022, will be allowed to leave the service with an honorable discharge. Those who are not eligible to be dismissed by that date “will be processed for separation on the basis of misconduct for refusing the lawful order to be vaccinated,” but will still be honorably discharged, said Waters. Soldiers with more than six years of service “will be processed with the least favorable characterization of service, being general, under honorable conditions, barring other misconduct,” he said.
The Politico report follows a report from The Associated Press Tuesday that the Air Force had discharged 27 airmen over their refusal to take the COVID shot. The Air Force’s deadline was November 2nd, and to date, more than 1,000 airmen have refused the vaccine, with another 4,700 seeking a religious exemption.
Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek told the AP that the 27 airmen who were discharged were all in the first term of their enlistment. Unlike the Navy, the Air Force does not disclose to the public what type of discharge an airman receives when he is dismissed from the service. The AP notes, however, that there is pending legislation in Congress that would limit the military to giving honorable discharges, or general discharges under honorable conditions, to members who refuse to take required vaccines.
The Army and Marine Corps have yet to discharge any of their members who refuse the vaccine. The Army’s vaccination deadline is Wednesday, while the Marine Corps followed the Navy’s deadline. The Army is expected to release its guidance sometime Wednesday, a Department of Defense official told Politico, while the Marine Corps is handling its discharge protocols on a case-by-case basis.
The Defense Department announced its original vaccine mandate for all military members on August 10. Politico notes that about 90% of all active-duty servicemen and women are fully vaccinated, but that number drops to 75% when the Reserves and the National Guard are factored in.
The Pentagon is also considering a vaccine booster mandate for all of its members. The Daily Wire reported Saturday:
“There are active discussions here in the department at the policy level about booster shots and whether or not to make those mandatory,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters at a press conference Friday. “There have been no final decisions made about that.”
If a booster vaccine mandate were to be implemented, “[the Department of Defense] will clearly communicate that and be transparent about it,” Kirby said, adding that the Pentagon urges DoD employees to get their boosters in the meantime.