In a controversially charged decision, the U.S. Air Force recently announced the decision to let go 27 members of the service due to noncompliance with the COVID-19 vaccine mandate. All of them are now the first service members to officially be dismissed from duty due to their refusal to get the vaccine shot.
According to U.S. Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanik, the force gave its members until November 2 to get their vaccine shot in order to continue serving in their duty. Service members who did not agree with the decision went to either refusing or getting an exemption to the rule due to a pre-existing condition. Spokeswoman Stefanik also mentioned that all of those dismissed were in their first term of enlistment, therefore younger and not very experienced.
Earlier this year, the Pentagon required all active duty, the National Guard, and the Reserves members of the service to get the COVID vaccine. After that, each of the national defense services set their own pre-decided deadlines to get the vaccine, among which the U.S. Air Force set the earliest one. The 27 men dismissed did not apply for any kind of medical, administrative, or religious exemption for the mandate.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was also among officials who gave statements regarding the mandate saying it is necessary to ensure the health of U.S. Air Force members so that they are at their best to respond to any national security crisis if need be.
There are several different types of discharges a service member could get when leaving the force. While the U.S. Air Force has not disclosed what type of discharge these members got or might get in the future regarding similar dismissals, the Congress legislation currently under works regarding the matter refuses the forces to give members in vaccine refusals an honorable or general discharge under honorable conditions. The dismissal currently involves disobeying a direct order as the mandate clarifies no exemptions unless in special circumstances or cases.