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Army kicks out first 3 soldiers for refusing COVID vaccine

U.S. Soldiers with 1-137th Assault Helicopter Battalion, 28th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade stand in formation. (Capt. Travis Mueller/U.S. Army)
March 18, 2022

The U.S. Army kicked out its first three service members for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine mandate, the service revealed to American Military News on Friday.

The Army revealed the three vaccine-related involuntary separations, along with other changes in its service-wide vaccination records, in a statement to American Military News. With these three separations, the Army now joins the U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force, which have already separated hundreds of service members from the military over vaccines.

The Army has been the slowest to begin separating service members over the vaccine, and until now had only relieved officers and issued written reprimands to punish noncompliance with the vaccine mandate. The Army said its commanders have relieved “six Regular Army leaders, including two battalion commanders, and issued 3,251 general officer written reprimands to Regular Army Soldiers for refusing the vaccination order.”

Between the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force, the military has separated a total of 1,797 service members. As of this week, the Navy has involuntarily separated 544 sailors. The Air Force has separated 212 Airmen. The Marine Corps has separated 1,038, more than all other branches combined.

The Army’s first three vaccine-related separations come more than a month after Army Secretary Christine Wormuth ordered the service to begin separating soldiers refusing the vaccines “as expeditiously as possible.” Refusals describe those soldiers who have refused the vaccine order, who do not have a pending or approved exemption.

The Army currently lists 2,692 “refusals” for the vaccine mandate. It is unclear if the Army’s first three separations are included in this figure, and if that number will go down as separations continue. Last week the Army listed 2,791 refusals.

The Army separations also come a week after the service announced it had approved its first religious accommodation to the vaccine mandate. In its Friday vaccination records update, the Army announced it had approved a second religious accommodation. The Army has received a total of 3,943 religious accommodation requests, of which it has already rejected 792. Some 3,149 religious accommodation requests are still pending.

The Army has received another 692 requests for permanent medical exemptions for the vaccines, of which it has approved seven and rejected 658, leaving 27 still to be decided.

The Army currently lists 4,397 temporary vaccine exemptions. That number includes pending permanent medical exemption and religious accommodation requests.