Deciding to require the COVID vaccination for troops was a move that many currently serving, or who had served previously were outraged about, yet it still came down on August 23, 2021. As many serving were told they would be discharged for refusing the vaccine, members of the National Guard and the Reserves hoped they would slink by, but many still found themselves being told they were not welcome.
Now, Congress’ 2023 defense bill has removed this requirement from the Department of Defense, but it doesn’t address a November 2021 memo that required the vaccine for NG and Reserve troops. Under this order, those who were mobilized under state, rather than federal orders were prevented from being paid if they were unvaccinated. Meanwhile, the vaccine policy was rescinded by President Biden on December 23, 2022.
FRAGO 35, an update to HQDA EXORD 225-21, which describes the Pentagon’s COVID-19 policy was obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation. It explains just how badly our troops were being shut out. “The FY 2023 NDAA does not address the Secretary of Defense’s directive regarding COVID-19 vaccination for members of the national guard and ready reserve (Annex AAAA)… Commands will continue to adhere to Annex AAAA and to paragraphs 3.D.21-3.D.23 unless and until Annex AAAA is superseded or rescinded by the Secretary of Defense.”
Annex AAAA is in reference to a December 31, 2022 memo from Sec Def Lloyd Austin that was aimed at NG troops and units that had not wanted to comply with the order. This memo would force them to comply with the mandate. It ordered NG troops to comply and participate in training, drills, and other duties under Title 32, as well as stripping funding for those who continued to refuse the vaccine. Additionally, it required Army and Air Force leaders to create similar policies applying to Reserve forces.
These mandates have done nothing but weaken our military forces. Ironically enough, per the latest defense spending bill, it appears as though President Biden is actively looking to find ways to trim the US Military, and this mandate was part of that trimming. For those who were able to stave out being ordered out, this change provides limited reprieve and minimal comfort.
As it stands, the NG and Reserves organizations are largely comprised of two groups. One who wanted to join for the benefits, who have a good job at home, and who just want to help locally. The other consists of troops who already spent a good chunk of time on active duty, who aren’t eligible for full retirement, or who just want to stay in uniform to help the new recruits get trained up.
From active duty to the NG to the Reserves, it has been hard recruiting new people into the military over the last few years. COVID made many afraid of joining, and the vaccine requirement by President Biden shrunk an already small pool of applicants even more. By taking that requirement away, the freedom these brave men and women defend has been restored to them, at least in part.
Until they restore the service of all the troops, the job is not done. There are still many who should be wearing the uniform who were forced to get out with minimal notice and without any of the usual planning for discharge. If Biden wants any chance at truly saving face, he’ll bring them all back and give them their full entitlements for the time missed, should they choose to return, that is.