On August 24, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin issued a memorandum to the nation’s military branches ordering a coronavirus vaccination mandate. Though an order applied at the national level, Texas’ National Guard (TXNG) branches have begun enforcing the mandate, pushing their members to receive vaccinations before various deadlines.
The Texas Military Department issued a directive on September 27, signed by Major General Tracy Norris, to follow through on the order.
“Every [servicemember] who is NOT otherwise exempt will be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to ensure our Soldiers/Airmen and Units are ready to fight and win,” the directive reads, adding that every servicemember without exemption must be vaccinated by June of 2022.
It adds, “This is a Federal readiness, health and welfare priority for the [Texas National Guard]. The SECDEF has issued a lawful Federal order and the Army and Air Force has a responsibility to ensure good order and discipline.”
Should members refuse vaccination without an exemption, “Commanders will initiate separation of vaccination refusals if it renders the SM non-deployable.”
Additionally, an adjudicative process is established for continued refusals. “In instances where exemptions or accommodations are disapproved,” the order says in reference to the Air National Guard, “the unit will offer additional education via Commander, Chaplain, and medical providers.”
“If the member refuses to follow the order to vaccinate the member will be directed to the Staff Judge Advocate for appropriate action.”
On September 22, members of the Texas Air National Guard were sent an email by Lt. Colonel Travis Williams that read, “In accordance with this directive, Saturday of drill…the medical group will provide the FDA approved vaccine to members.”
“For those desiring to pursue an exemption (medical or religious), please do so immediately. As an exemption is a by-person consideration, and tailored to the individual, there is no template that exists,” Williams continued.
According to Williams’ email, that application must be submitted by October 1.
Lt. Colonel Williams was reached by phone on September 24 but declined to comment and referred The Texan to the public affairs office for the 147th Attack Wing unit of the Air National Guard. That office did confirm the directive in accordance with the secretary’s mandate but said no deadline for the vaccinations exists.
A page on the Department of Homeland Security’s website says that employees must be “fully vaccinated” by November 22.
The office also said that most members of Texas’ military are complying with the order, if they haven’t already.
Exemptions, however, are limited to medical and religious circumstances.
And the orders have received push back within the ranks. In an affidavit obtained by The Texan, Lt. Colonel Peter Chambers, Task Force Surgeon for Operation Lone Star, called the mandate a problem for him “personally and professionally.”
Chambers is a Special Forces Qualified Army Flight Surgeon and served as the State of Texas Military Department’s Liaison to Governor Abbott’s COVID-19 task force.
“[B]ased upon risk stratification along with treatment modalities in existence, the introduction of a substance which is still in a phase III trial is not necessary, and introduces increased risk factors for the known side effects exhibited by this phase III trial,” he added.
“I cannot in good conscience nor under the hypocritic [sic] oath (do no harm) advise Soldiers to take an unapproved high risk ‘vaccine’ still in a phase III trial.”
Chambers’ testimony echoes a similar affidavit by Lt. Colonel Theresa Long that details a few instances of pulmonary embolism that occurred shortly after the individuals received their coronavirus vaccination — instances that Long attributes to the vaccine.
Long is a brigade surgeon with the 1st Aviation Brigade stationed at Alabama’s Ft. Rucker.
She also states, “I can report of knowing over fifteen military physicians and healthcare providers who have shared experiences of having their safety concerns ignored and being ostracized for expressing or reporting safety concerns as they relate to COVID vaccinations.”
Long pointed to the “politicization” of coronavirus and remedies having “compromised long-standing safety mechanisms, open and honest dialogue, and the trust of our servicemembers in their health system and healthcare providers.”
One Army National Guardsman, who also serves in the Border Patrol and asked for their name to be withheld, said that those under his command are split fifty-fifty on receiving the vaccine.
He added that servicemembers are seeking medical exemptions from “grifter” pastors because they feel they have no other option and further said they aren’t receiving much guidance from the top.
The Office of the Attorney General, the servicemember said, declined to provide any answers because it’s from the federal government.
According to the guardsman, all members that need training are required to be vaccinated with no exceptions before reporting.
This coronavirus vaccination would join 17 others required for servicemembers, per the military’s immunization guidebook.
Since the vaccinations were given emergency federal approval early in 2020, Governor Greg Abbott has frequently said the vaccinations are “always voluntary, never forced” in reference to civilian vaccination.
In August, the Pfizer vaccine was approved by the Food and Drug Administration for non-emergency authorization.
Neither the Texas Military Department nor Abbott’s office returned requests for comment.
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Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.