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Air Force prepares for disciplinary action as vaccination deadline nears

Morning traffic slows near the Langley Air Force Base gate. (Kaitlin McKeown/ Daily Press/TNS)
November 02, 2021

Airmen who don’t get a final dose of COVID-19 vaccine by Tuesday will face disciplinary action, the Air Force says.

Exactly what that discipline will be depends on the advice of the first colonel in an airman’s chain of command who has the authority to convene a special court martial, as well as the judge advocate general staff.

“This is about force health protection — not punishment,” said Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek. “One of the benefits of individualized discipline is that our commanders have the flexibility to tailor the response to ensure our airmen and guardians are healthy and ready to defend the nation.”

Commanders have the full range of disciplinary options available to them under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which includes a dishonorable discharge and up to two years behind bars for failing to obey a lawful general order.

The examples detailed in a statement from the office of the secretary of the Air Force included issuing administrative paperwork, imposing nonjudicial punishment or referring court-martial charges.

As of mid-October, 91% of active-duty airmen at Joint Base Langley Eustis are fully vaccinated and another 5% had received a first shot — giving them time to get final shot of any two-dose vaccine.

A total of 110 airmen had requested a religious exemption and 40 a medical one, mainly because of pregnancy.

By late October, more than 96% of all airmen had been vaccinated.

Department of the Air Force civilian employees must be fully vaccinated by Nov. 22, and contractors by Dec. 8, under a presidential executive order.

“To those yet to get vaccinated, the order is clear: You have a responsibility to take action now, protect our nation and those we love, or be held accountable for failing to do so,” Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall has said.

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