With the Defense Department mandating that all troops get the COVID-19 vaccine, one adjutant general for the Oklahoma National Guard is not playing along. Army Brig. Gen. Thomas Mancino exempted guardsmen who refused the vaccine from being punished.
Mancino issued the memo the day after he was appointed to his position by Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt. Task & Purpose reported that the Governor himself ordered Mancino to issue the exemption, according to spokesman Charlie Hannema.
Hannema said the National Guard does fall under the Governor's purview unless they are needed for a federal mission under Title 32 of the U.S. Code. "It is the governor's position that as commander-in-chief, he is the one with the authority to enforce policies while on state duty," said Hannema.
Stitt sent Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin a letter requesting that the guardsmen be exempt from the order. Even though the guard reports to Stitt, they have to follow federal rules to train, go to schools, and deploy.
The Pentagon maintains that getting vaccinated is the right thing to do, but in a briefing, Kirby was annoyed that a reporter asked if the Defense Department had the authority to enforce a mandate on guardsmen under state orders.
While Kirby believes that the guard "must meet medical readiness requirements established by the secretary of defense," the law may very well be on the guard's side since they are working for Oklahoma's governor. Moreover, since the National Guard voluntarily serves, they should get the choice to take the vaccine or not.