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Army officer being court-martialed for refusing mask, COVID test order

U.S. Army Aberdeen Proving Ground. (U.S. Army photo/Released)
February 07, 2022

A U.S. Army officer is now facing court-martial for refusing to wear a mask and take a COVID-19 test.

Army Times first reported on Wednesday that 1st Lt. Mark Bashaw, assigned to the Army Public Health Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, is facing a special court-martial for not obeying the COVID mitigation policies.

Becca Nappi, a spokesperson for the installation, told Army Times that Bashaw is “pending” an arraignment on three counts of “failure to obey lawful orders.”

While other soldiers have disciplinary actions for failing to follow the Army’s COVID-19 mitigation policies, Army spokeswoman Col. Cathy Wilkinson told Army Times that Bashaw is the first such case referred for a court-martial.

Bashaw, the former headquarters company commander for the Army Public Health Center, is charged with refusing an order to telework and instead arriving at Aberdeen Proving Ground, “after failing to submit a negative COVID-19 test” and failing to submit to one upon his arrival.

The Army installation’s COVID-19 policy states commanders may bring up to 40 percent of their workforce for in-person work and masks must be worn at all times indoors, regardless of their vaccination status. The policy further states “All APG personnel need to carry proof of vaccination. Those who are not vaccinated, have a pending exemption, or who refuse to show a vaccination card, should be prepared for regular testing in order to enter their worksites.”

Bashaw is further charged with refusing to leave and “wrongfully remaining at his place of duty” after failing to get tested.

He is also charged with refusing to wear a mask throughout the incident.

Nappi told Army Times that Bashaw is “presumed innocent until proven guilty.”

Nappi also noted Bashaw is not being charged “for refusing the order to receive the COVID-19 vaccine,” but rather for refusing the installation’s COVID mitigation policies.

Army Times reported on Bashaw’s court-martial case on the same day the Army announced it would begin separating soldiers who have not taken the COVID-19 vaccine.

“The United States Army announced today that it will immediately begin separating Soldiers from the service who refuse to be vaccinated against COVID-19,” the service said in an emailed statement provided to American Military News.

The service announced the start of it its separation actions more than a month and a half after its Dec. 15, 2021 vaccination deadline passed.

As of its latest reporting, the Army had received 709 requests for permanent medical exemptions to the vaccine, of which it approved six and rejected 656. The Army had received another 2,910 permanent religious exemption requests of which it has approved none and rejected 266. The Army has also granted 5,870 temporary vaccine exemptions, including for pending permanent exemption requests.