Unvaccinated members of the Oklahoma Air National Guard will not be allowed to drill in the new year, despite the fight the governor put up against the Department of Defense's mandate.
Brig. Gen. Thomas Mancino, the head of the state’s National Guard, announced the plan on Thursday, just days after a federal judge ruled against Gov. Kevin Stitt, who filed a lawsuit to block the Department of Defense’s coronavirus vaccination mandate.
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A judge for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma ruled against Stitt's claim the Pentagon's vaccine mandate overstepped constitutional authority on Tuesday, which prompted Mancino’s new message to the troops.
“With no possibility of injunctive relief before January 1st, 2022, I have decided to not allow unvaccinated Oklahoma Air National Guard Drill Status Guardsmen (DSGs), without a medical exemption or religious accommodation request, to participate in any future drill period, except for any Airmen wishing to be vaccinated,” he wrote.
“The Governor concurs with this decision,” the general continued.
Mancino noted that the judge’s dismissal “does not mean that the case is over,” and he also maintained that he “fully supports Governor Stitt’s authority over the Oklahoma National Guard when not federalized.”
Ninety-seven percent of the Oklahoma Air National Guard is either vaccinated or seeking an exemption, which leaves roughly 60 of the 2,250 guardsmen unvaccinated, a spokesperson for the state's National Guard told the Washington Examiner on Wednesday.
Mancino’s decision only applies to the Air National Guard because the deadline for getting the vaccine has already passed.
The state's Army National Guard's vaccination rate is much lower, at 46% fully and 7% partially, the spokesperson added, though their deadline is not until June 2022.
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Stitt said in November he would appoint Mancino to serve as the state's adjunct general and National Guard commander, with Mancino telling guardsmen in December they would not be forced to comply with the vaccine mandate. The state Senate has yet to confirm Mancino for the position.
Six other Republican governors have raised issues with the military vaccine mandate, but Stitt remains the only governor to file a lawsuit.