Oklahoma National Guard leader warns unvaccinated members

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The adjutant general of the Oklahoma National Guard is warning members that refusing to receive the coronavirus vaccine could end their military careers.

In an letter posted on the state Guard’s website dated Thursday, Brig. Gen. Thomas Mancino said Oklahoma Army and Air Force members will eventually be subject to the U.S. Defense Department’s vaccination mandate.

“Anyone … deciding not to take the vaccine, must realize that the potential for career ending federal action, barring a favorable court ruling, legislative intervention, or a change in policy is present,” Mancino wrote in the letter first reported by The Oklahoman.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has said National Guard members who refuse COVID-19 vaccination will be barred from federally funded drills and training that is required to maintain their Guard status.

Austin has rejected a request by Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt to exempt Oklahoma members from the mandate.

Stitt maintains that he is the commander of the state Guard when it is not on active federal duty and the state is suing to overturn the vaccine requirement.

Mancino said he supports Stitt’s authority over the Guard, but the extent of that authority is a legal question to be answered by the courts or Congress.

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