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Report: Military confused over canceled vax mandate; some troops still under mandate

Tech. Sgt. Joseph Anthony holds a COVID-19 vaccine vial at the Pittsburgh International Airport Air Reserve Station, Pennsylvania, Feb. 4, 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo by Joshua J. Seybert)
January 04, 2023

National Guard and Ready Reserve troops are still facing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate on paper, even though the military-wide mandate was supposed to have been canceled as part of the 2023 defense budget, the Daily Caller reported.

A provision of the National Defense Authorization Act rescinded policies stemming from an August 2021 memo where Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin called for a vaccine mandate. But it apparently didn’t touch another Austin memo from November 2021, which remains in effect, ordering Ready Reserve and National Guard troops not to be paid unless they were vaccinated by a deadline.

An order called FRAGO 35, recently issued to Army units and obtained by the Daily Caller, highlights that the defense budget’s mandate repeal “does not address” Austin’s second memo, which it refers to as Annex AAAA.

“Commands will continue to adhere to Annex AAAA and to paragraphs 3.D.21-3.D.23 unless and until Annex AAAA is superseded or rescinded by the Secretary of Defense,” the order states. 

The cited paragraphs said that Army National Guard and reserve troops “must be fully vaccinated” by July 1, 2022, whether they are federally activated or not, according to the Daily Caller. 

While it’s unconfirmed whether Air National Guard troops are still under a mandate, Austin’s November memo instructed both the Air Force and Army to tighten the National Guard’s vaccine policies.

Still, the remaining FRAGO 35 mandate identified by the Daily Caller may be only on paper.

A Defense Department spokesperson told the Daily Caller that the military is “pausing all actions” against unvaccinated troops, including discharges. The spokesperson, Maj. Charlie Dietz, said the Defense Department is working on a new vaccination policy during a 30-day grace period.

A National Guard spokesman told CBN News that the Guard “will comply with the NDAA and has paused all actions related to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate while awaiting further guidance from DoD.”

Ninety-one percent of the Army National Guard is fully vaccinated, according to the Army. There have been 5,440 refusals with no discharges for non-compliance. 

More than 8,000 troops have been discharged for not taking a COVID-19 vaccine, Military Times reported. Nearly all remaining troops have been vaccinated, CNN reported.