The newly appointed adjutant general heading the Oklahoma National Guard reversed the existing COVID-19 vaccination mandate for Oklahoma National Guard troops this week, allowing them to refuse the vaccination while they are serving in the state.
As one of his first moves since being appointed, Gen. Thomas Mancino issued a memo on Thursday, which said no Guardsmen will be ordered to take the COVID-19 vaccines and “no negative administrative or legal action will be taken against Guardsmen who refuse the COVID-19 Vaccine,” The Oklahoman reported.
Lt. Col. Geoff Legler, a spokesman for the Oklahoma National Guard, told The Oklahoman, “The clarified policy on COVID vaccinations for Oklahoma Army and Air National Guardsmen reflects the Governor’s ability to assert his command authority over the men and women of the Oklahoma National Guard while they are within the state’s borders. The clarification will allow our unvaccinated Guardsmen to continue to serve in Oklahoma without any negative repercussion, but it does not provide any protection should they need to attend any military school or training activity run by an active duty component or the Department of Defense.”
Mancino issued the memo the day after Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt appointed him to replace Gen. Michael Thompson, who had served as the Oklahoma National Guard adjutant general since 2017.
Stitt’s decision to replace Thompson with Mancino comes amid his ongoing opposition to vaccine mandates from President Joe Biden’s administration. However, Stitt’s office has denied that he replaced Thompson as a result of his opposition to the vaccine mandates and said the change in command has been in the works since October.
The new vaccine policy laid out in Mancino’s memo differs from Thompson’s policy, which more closely aligned Biden’s military vaccine mandates.
Thompson had previously said that because of a state executive order by Stitt, the Oklahoma Military Department would not require state employees to be vaccinated. Thompson did, however, state, “Uniformed members and Title 5 federal civilian employees who elect not to receive the vaccine will be counseled regarding the consequences of not being vaccinated. These consequences will depend on the individual’s status.”
On November 2, Stitt sent a letter to the secretary of defense, requesting the DoD suspend the vaccine mandate. Stitt’s letter noted over 800 Oklahoma guardsmen, or about 10 percent of the state’s Guard force, have not and do not plan to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Thompson has been supportive of the vaccine and last month tweeted, “Happy to get the booster shot! Appreciate IMMY Labs for being so efficient. 5 minute process – well done.”
In response to a Fox 25 request for comment, Thompson said instead of learning about his replacement through a notice from Stitt, “I saw it on Twitter.”
Asked if he believed his replacement was due to his views on the vaccine, Thompson said, “You would probably have to ask the Governor that.”