Gov. Ducey, Arizona National Guard Won’t Answer Sun Times Questions About Joining Oklahoma National Guard’s COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate Rebuke

National Guard members in uniform, wearing masks

 

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and the Arizona National Guard did respond to queries from The Arizona Sun Times regarding whether Arizona would follow the lead of Oklahoma and its National Guard decision not to enforce the Pentagon’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

A source familiar with the Arizona National Guard’s vaccine policy told that commanders in the Arizona National Guard have already begun ordering troops to get the vaccine.

The source said based on their understanding of the internal dynamics of the Arizona Guard Ducey could reverse this vaccination push and follow Oklahoma’s lead.

While Ducey remains silent, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, now running for the 2022 GOP Senate nomination, sued the Biden administration twice over the mandate.

The first time, the attorney general sued it was over the mandate’s its applicability to federal employees and contractors.

The second time over the extension to private businesses with more than 100 employees, sent a letter to Ducey on Nov. 12 demanding that he take action to stop the vaccine mandates.

Brnovich, who is also a drilling Arizona National Guardsman, asked for three immediate actions.

First, he asked for cooperation identifying contracts that state agencies have with the federal government, in order to assist with his lawsuit over the contractor mandate.

Second, he told Ducey to instruct the Arizona Department of Health Services to issue an emergency rule to stop political subdivisions from requiring the vaccine.

Third, Brnovich demanded that Ducey call a special session of the Arizona legislature to redraft several COVID-19 bills that were struck down by the courts for procedural grounds.

Oklahoma National Guard rejects COVID-19 mandate

In his Veteran’s Day memorandum, Oklahoma National Guard Adjutant General Brig. Gen Thomas Mancino, told Sooner State Guardsmen that because Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt is their commander-in-chief when they are not mobilized under federal orders, they subject to Sitt’s policy to not compel vaccinations, and would be exempt from the Defense Department’s vaccine mandate.

“I hereby order that no Oklahoma Guardsmen be required to take the COVID-19 Vaccine, notwithstanding any other Federal requirement,” the Mancino wrote.

“Oklahoma Command’s will continue to process Federal vaccine waivers in accordance with DoD policy. Additionally, no negative administrative or legal action will be taken against Guardsmen who refuse the COVID-19 vaccine,” he wrote.

This goes directly contrary to the Defense Department’s directive that said the Total Force, which views all components, active-duty, reserve and National Guard, as one coherent organization.

It was this concept that Pentagon spokesman John Kirby emphasized at his Nov. 15 press briefing.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby responded to Oklahoma’s decision on Monday during a press conference, stating that the Department of Defense has authority because there are federal funds involved.

“The secretary of defense has the authority to require these vaccines for all members of the force, including the National Guard, as I said, even in a Title 32 status,” he said. Title 32 covers National Guard units when they operate under the control of their governor. Title 10 covers National Guard units when they are mobilized on federal orders, and critically, with federal funding.

“When [Guardsmen are] called up for their monthly training, they’re still federally funded. So [the secretary] has those authorities, and he believes and this is a larger point that vaccinated forces are a more ready force,” Kirby said.

Stitt wrote a Nov. 1 letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyld Austin formally requesting he suspend the mandate for the Oklahoma National Guard.

The Oklahoma governor’s request for a mandate suspend aligns with the views of the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee and Oklahoma’s senior senator Sen. James Inhofe.

The senator sent an Oct. 18 letter to Austin objecting to the mandate for all military personnel.

Tens of thousands of service members have refused to get the vaccine. He demanded an analysis of the impact the mandate would have on the military, including the total cost, the senator wrote. “The mass attrition of personnel and further shirking of the defense industrial base at this time would only serve to hinder our ability to project power and compete against near-peer adversaries.

The military has uneven success with its vaccination efforts. In October, RealClearPolitics reported that only 40 percent of the 3,000 employees at California’s China Lake Navy base were vaccinated.

Members of the military who refuse the vaccine face rank reductions, separation from their service, and possibly courts-martial and dishonorable discharge. They could also lose their security clearance, jeopardizing future employment in national security.

There are nearly 440,000 National Guardsmen, according to the National Guard Bureau.

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Rachel Alexander is a reporter at The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Rachel on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected]

 

 

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