US Navy Joins Air Force in Discharging Service Members Over COVID Vaccine Noncompliance
03:31 GMT 16.12.2021 (Updated: 20:03 GMT 19.10.2022)
© USMC/Lance Cpl. Kristy OrdonezU.S. Navy Lt. Craig Wilcox, a company commander assigned to Alpha Company, 1st Medical Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group (MLG), I Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF), left, waits for U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Rodolfo Mena, a maintenance management chief assigned to Combat Logistics Regiment 1, 1st MLG, I MEF, right, to administer a COVID-19 vaccine at the walk in clinic at the Community Vaccination Center (CVC) at the Jackson County Expo in Central Point, Oregon, April 29, 2021. U.S. Northern Command, through U.S. Army North, remains committed to providing continued, flexible Department of Defense support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency as part of the whole-of-government response to COVID-19
US Air Force spokesperson Ann Stefanek on Tuesday confirmed that 27 airmen were among the first to be discharged from the service over their failure to obey an order requiring them to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The active-duty members in question did not have exemptions and refused to be vaccinated by the November 2 deadline.
On Wednesday, the US Navy announced that it would enforce its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for service members and begin 'administrative separation' for those who have continued to refuse to be vaccinated against the highly-contagious disease.
Vice Adm. John B. Nowell, Jr., chief of naval personnel, highlighted in a December 15 memo that it is service policy that those who refuse the COVID-19 vaccine "be processed for separation at the earliest possible opportunity."
Per the Pentagon, members of the US Navy and US Marine Corps had until November 28 to be vaccinated, while Reserve members have until December 28.
Service members who have legitimate COVID-19 vaccination exemptions, or pending requests, will not be processed for separation from the service. If a service member's request for exemption is denied, the individual must begin their vaccination series within five days of being notified.
Active-duty troops, or members of the reserve full-time support community who refuse the COVID-19 vaccine will have their administrative separation process expedited in order to "maximize speed and equity in achieving a fully vaccinated force," according to the naval administrative message, or NAVAMIN.
"While the vast majority of Navy service members have already received the vaccine, it remains in the interest of the Navy to encourage remaining Navy service members to become fully vaccinated as soon as possible and, at such time, consider them for retention," Nowell said in a quoted statement.
Sailors who refuse the vaccine and have less than six years of service qualify for an honorable discharge and will have the opportunity to go before a board of inquiry or an administrative separation (ADSEP) board.
© US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Josh CoteCmdr. Ronald Cappellini, Naval Air Station Sigonella executive officer, receives his COVID-19 vaccine booster from Lt. j.g. Aracely Duerkop, during a mass-immunization exercise on Naval Air Station Sigonella, Dec. 7, 2021.
Cmdr. Ronald Cappellini, Naval Air Station Sigonella executive officer, receives his COVID-19 vaccine booster from Lt. j.g. Aracely Duerkop, during a mass-immunization exercise on Naval Air Station Sigonella, Dec. 7, 2021.
Sailors refusing the vaccine with more than six years of service are eligible to appear before an ADSEP board or board of inquiry. The former board is offered to enlistees, while the latter is reserved for officers. Sailors who choose this option cannot receive a discharge lower than 'general,' which may impact a service member's benefits.
The Pentagon has reported that, as of December 10, around 96.4% of eligible active-duty personnel have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
The US Navy's enforcement of its COVID-19 vaccine mandate comes just a day after the US Air Force revealed that 27 airmen had been discharged over their refusal to get the jabs. According to USAF data, over 1,000 service members have refused the vaccine.