A Columbus Air Force Base colonel says she was relieved from duty because she would not enforce the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for her subordinates. The mandate was put in place by the military on August 23.
Against Her Beliefs
Col. Katheryn Ellis was the commander of the 14th Medical Group. In an interview with Task & Purpose, she said that Col. Seth Graham, the 14th Flying Training Wing commander, told her that she needed to order her civilian employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Ellis says the order went against her religious beliefs, and she could not give the order herself. She also filed for a religious exemption on September 17, so she would not get nor have to give the vaccine.
"To clarify, my religious beliefs prevent me from taking the vaccine, actively promoting the vaccine, and from administering the vaccine to others myself (I'm a nurse)," Ellis said via text message. "These objections were included in my religious accommodation request."
Ellis consulted with the base's legal team to find a way to still give the order without having to violate her own beliefs. Vice wing commander Col. Jeremy Bergin gave the order for her, though the two civilians were actually vaccinated, and there was no disruption to the day-to-day operations.
But, on October 21, Ellis was relieved of command because the Air Force had a "loss of trust and confidence in her ability to lead and maintain readiness of the men and women of the 14th Medical Group," according to spokesperson Rita Felton. Though the Air Force will not comment further, Ellis maintains that she was let go because she did not physically give the order herself.