The greatest threat to military readiness is not an unvaccinated soldier. It is the Biden administration’s ham-handed orchestration of the abrupt separation of tens of thousands of active and reserve component troops. Neither the active component nor the National Guard can maintain readiness with the loss of so many troops due to involuntary administrative separation.
This policy will do more harm to readiness than allowing reasonable exemptions. President Biden is once again failing his troops and his duties to the American people as commander in chief. Seven Republican governors (Oklahoma, Alaska, Mississippi, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Texas) formally called upon the Department of Defense to drop its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for the National Guard. I heartily endorse those governors’ objections to Mr. Biden’s radical vaccination orders for their respective troops. The Biden administration’s extremist vaccine mandates must end, and states are the best positioned to stand up and put a stop to it.
Those seven Republican governors and their adjutants general have taken a commonsense stand against absurd dictates not supported by science or experience. Their refusal is solidly grounded in fulfilling their responsibilities to their troops and their state. Adjutants general follow legal, ethical, and moral orders. While the legality of the mandate may be up for debate, it is unquestionably unethical to threaten to fire tens of thousands of unvaccinated members of America’s already-stretched-thin Armed Forces by terminating them with a less than honorable discharge. It is indisputably immoral to force the vaccine on our service members over their objections.
A less than honorable discharge may have life-changing long-term effects on these brave service members and their families. Most members should be entitled to either an administrative discharge hearing or court-martial before separation. Setting aside the illegality of Mr. Biden’s mandate, logistics associated with separating tens of thousands of unvaccinated service members will strain military resources and further distract attention away from its primary duty — defending the nation.
Subjecting our warfighters to such adverse action would be a strain on our armed forces, destroy morale, and hinder future recruiting and retention efforts at a time when we have lost more service members to suicide than to COVID-19. To involuntarily and adversely discharge service members who have taken a principled stand of conscience, which we demand from them in all other aspects of their service, is morally corrupt.
It is patently false that 100% vaccination is necessary to ensure readiness. There has never been a time in our nation’s history that 100% of troops were ready to deploy at a moment’s notice. There are longstanding procedures that allow troops exemptions from medical or administrative readiness requirements. If properly handled, vaccination exemptions can be granted while maintaining the readiness of the total force. Mr. Biden’s scientifically unfounded, illegitimate, and irresponsible policy is nothing but political grandstanding by a weak leader.
In response, the Pentagon, in direct contravention of the militia clause of the United States Constitution, has directed all governors and adjutants general to bar National Guard members, who do not comply with DoD vaccination requirements, from participating in drills and training. To enforce that unconstitutional mandate, the Pentagon has withheld DoD funding for those National Guard members and threatened to recoup their pay if they attend drill. In an unprecedented display of federal overreach, the Pentagon has simultaneously violated the Constitution, created a morale and readiness catastrophe, and abandoned tens of thousands of America’s “always ready, always there” heroes.
On Jan. 8, 2021, in response to the events of Jan. 6, 2021, Pentagon leadership solicited every state to send National Guard troops to police the citizens of Washington, D.C. Fifty-three of the 54 U.S. states and territories granted that request. As the commanding general of the Arizona National Guard, I refused because the request was clearly unlawful. The laws and standards to deploy United States military personnel against their fellow citizens are clear and unambiguous. I would not support the federal government’s illegal use of extraterritorial National Guard soldiers and airmen as a domestic police force against our citizens. While Arizona stood alone in opposition that day, when the Pentagon later requested those states extend their mission, forty-two states followed Arizona’s lead and refused to comply.
Like those seven Republican governors, other states must support America’s “always ready, always there” heroes. I am confident that if other states follow their lead and hold the line, the unconscionable and likely illegal mandate for our troops, and even the unconstitutional workplace mandate, will collapse.
- Maj. Gen. Mick McGuire is the former Adjutant General of Arizona and a current candidate for the U.S. Senate in Arizona.