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100+ Marines, 6 Army officers fired for refusing COVID vaccine

U.S. Marines and sailors with III Marine Expeditionary Force receive COVID-19 vaccines at the U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa, Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan, Jan. 12, 2021. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Francesca Landis)
December 17, 2021

The deadlines for active-duty troops to get vaccinated have passed and the services are starting to separate those who have continued to refuse the shots. The U.S. Marine Corps has already separated more than 100 Marines and the U.S. Army has relieved six officers of their commands.

Marine Corps Times reported on Thursday that the Marine Corps had already separated 103 active Marines for outright refusing to get vaccinated.

According to the Army figures provided to American Military News on Thursday, the Army has also relieved six leaders, including two battalion commanders, for refusing the vaccines. The Army announced the decision to relieve those leaders the day after its Dec. 15 vaccination deadline passed. The Army also issued 2,767 general officer written reprimands to soldiers for refusing the vaccination order.

Those soldiers who have been relieved of their commands or reprimanded are still continuing to serve, but they haven’t been separated service yet. The Army said, starting in January, it will begin “involuntary separation for the less than one percent of active component Soldiers who continue to refuse the vaccination order without an approved or pending exemption.”

The Air Force was the first to announce it had begun separating service members. On Tuesday, the service announced it had separated the first 27 active U.S. service members for their vaccine refusal.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Navy also advised commanders to proceed with separating sailors for their vaccine refusals, while advising those still unvaccinated that they can still get vaccinated and avoid separation if they act soon. The Navy told commanders that all service members whose contracts are up by June 1, 2022, or who are eligible for retirement by that point will be automatically separated with an Honorable Discharge. Service members whose service commitments take them past June 1, will either get an Honorable Discharge if they’ve served less than six years in the Navy, or a General Discharge under Honorable conditions if they’ve served more than six years. Those service members who have served more than six years, whose contracts are not up by June 1, can still receive an Honorable Discharge if they agree to waive their rights to an administrative separation board or board of inquiry.

Maj. Jim Stenger, a Marine Corps spokesman told Marine Corps Times that 95 percent of the active Marine Corps is now either partially or fully vaccinated, the lowest vaccination rate of any of the military branches.

98 percent of the Army’s active force was either fully or partially vaccinated, as of Thursday. When including all components of the Army, including both the active force, Reserves and National Guard, only about 83 percent of the force has received at least one vaccine dose.

Military Times reported the Air Force and Space Force had a total vaccination rate of about 96 percent by the time those branches reached their shared Nov. 2 vaccine deadline. The Navy had a 96.3 percent vaccination rate as of Nov. 28, when it reached its vaccine deadline.