Military Lawyer Weighs in on Oklahoma Guard Defying Federal COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate
Beverly Cantrell - November 13, 2021 1:48 pm
OKLAHOMA CITY (KOKH) — By no longer requiring vaccines for all guard members, the Oklahoma National Guard is now directly defying federal orders.
The change to the Guard’s vaccination policy was one of the first orders of business for new Adjutant General Thomas Mancino.
This week’s sudden change in command was the decision of Governor Kevin Stitt, who recently wrote a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Defense asking for Oklahoma Guard members to be exempt from federal COVID vaccine requirements.
The timing has some questioning if the replacement of Former Adjutant General Michael Thompson was due to his public promoting of vaccine mandates.
However, Stitt’s office has said Thompson’s removal was months in the making and, “not related to his support of vaccine mandates.”
In a memo sent out Thursday, Mancino reversed Thompson’s vaccine requirement, ordering that no members of the Oklahoma National Guard be required to take a COVID-19 vaccine.
Still, although the new policy contradicts the federal government’s mandate, according to military law expert and State Rep. Chris Kannady, the action is completely legal.
“The federal law states that under Title 32 the authority over the National Guardian of the state lies with the Governor,” explained Kannady.
However, Kannady says not all guardsman fall under the state’s authority. Those who are federally mobilized would still need to get their shot, which is specified in Mancino’s memo.
“If a unit was activated to go to Afghanistan, for instance, and we had 200 people and let’s say you had 20 who are unvaccinated, then those 20 could not deploy with the unit,” he said.
Guardsman can fall under federal control for a number of other reasons, such as schooling or training, but Kannady says the majority do not. He adds that if the federal government wanted to enforce a mandate on all Oklahoma guardsman, they’d only have one option.
“The only thing the President United States can do is try to find a way to place those guardsman in a different status,” he said, “But there are procedures to do that and there has to be a basis to do that.”
FOX 25 reached out to the Department of Defense to ask if they planned to take any action against the state. Pentagon Spokesman, John Kirby sent us the following statement:
We are aware of the memo issued by the Oklahoma Adjutant General regarding COVID vaccination for Guardsmen and the governor’s letter requesting exemption. We will respond to the governor appropriately. That said, Secretary Austin believes that a vaccinated force is a more ready force. That is why he has ordered mandatory vaccines for the total force, and that includes our National Guard, who contribute significantly to national missions at home and abroad.