The Department of Defense, which provides the funding for Texas National Guard drill and annual training pay, issued the vaccine mandate on August 24, directing each branch to determine its deadline for fulfillment.
The Texas Air National Guard vaccine deadline is December 31 and the Texas Army National Guard deadline is June 30, 2022, according to the Texas Military Department’s (TMD) public affairs staff.
“Texas Army National Guard Soldiers serving on Title 10 orders are required by the Department of Defense to be in compliance with the mandate or have the intent to submit a religious or medical exemption by December 15, 2021,” TMD further explained. Title 10 refers to guardsmen being called up on “active duty” for national defense work.
In August, Governor Greg Abbott issued GA-39, an executive order that stated, “No governmental entity can compel any individual to receive a COVID 19 vaccine.”
Abbott, as governor, serves as the commander-in-chief of the Texas National Guard. However, because the Texas National Guard is funded by the Department of Defense and its members’ commissions are recognized by the U.S. Army or Air Force, those hesitant to receive the vaccine are faced with a predicament.
“It is very difficult for members of the National Guard because they have dual allegiance,” said Chuck DeVore, vice-president of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, in an interview with The Texan. DeVore is a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, retired reserve, who served in the California National Guard as a Deputy J-1 over personnel.
“Their ranks are dual-recognized. If they refuse the vaccine order, then they risk losing their federally-recognized rank and drill pay,” DeVore explained.
Members of the Texas State Guard, a state militia, are not subject to the Department of Defense mandates, TMD clarified.
About whether unvaccinated guard members will receive drill pay, TMD’s public affairs staff said that “the Department of Defense can withhold pay for Guardsmen attending drill.”
Guard members are expected to drill one weekend a month and attend a two-week annual training.
TMD added, “The Department of Defense notified National Guard units that they (DoD) intend to discharge service members who fail to serve in a paid drill status. In short, this will impact any service member who is not in compliance with the COVID-19 vaccine mandate, making him or her subject to Department of Defense-led administrative discharge proceedings.”
Its official position is that “the vaccine is voluntary and no one can force a service member to take the vaccine.”
Guard members can apply for medical or religious exemptions which will be reviewed by the Department of Defense, TMD’s public affairs spokesperson wrote.
In order to overcome the vaccine mandate, DeVore suggested that a federal lawsuit by the State or guard members be filed. He doesn’t know what the outcome of such a lawsuit would be, however.
Governors of five states sent a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin asking him to reconsider the application of the vaccine mandate to the National Guard, according to NBC News.
Abbott has come under criticism by some of his primary opponents over this issue.
Lt. Col. Allen West said in a press release that “The Governor cannot blame President Biden for this mandate. As Governor of Texas, he is well within his authority to stop the medical overreach from occurring.”
“Greg Abbott is commander-in-chief [of] the Texas Military and took an oath to protect Texans’ rights. His continued refusal to take action against vaccine mandates puts our state and our citizens at risk at a time when the Texas Border is being invaded by thousands of illegal aliens every day,” former state senator Don Huffines criticized.
Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt has issued a memorandum stating that no member of the Oklahoma National Guard will be required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. However, the adjutant general for Oklahoma issued a letter to the Oklahoma National Guard troops warning that refusing the vaccine could have “the potential for career ending federal action, barring a favorable court ruling, legislative intervention, or a change in policy is present.”
TMD did not provide the percentage of Texas National Guard troops who are currently vaccinated, saying it was premature to release such data before the deadlines.
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Kim Roberts is a reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.