Defense Department Secretary Lloyd Austin denied a request sent by the Oklahoma governor to exempt members of the state's National Guard from the COVID vaccine mandate.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt was told that all members of the Defense Department's service branches must be subjected under the COVID vaccine mandate or compromise their service, according to a CBS News report.

Austin said in a letter to Stitt that the immediate vaccination against COVID is a needed military readiness requirement for all components and units of the military, which includes the Oklahoma National Guard.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby echoed Austin's sentiments, saying that not taking the vaccine compromises the military's mandatory readiness requirement.

Kirby noted that the Pentagon has not received similar requests from other states.

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COVID Vaccine Mandate in National Guard

Kirby went on to say that National Guard members who refuse to get the shots will be "denied training opportunities," according to The New York Times report.

The governor commands the guard members unless they are federally deployed. However, Pentagon officials insist that does not remove the federal vaccine requirement.

Only 40 percent of Army guardsmen received their shots, while 89 percent of airmen in the Oklahoma National Guard have been vaccinated.

Meanwhile, 97 percent of the 1.3 million active-duty service members in the United States have had at least one dose of the vaccine.

Charlie Hannema, a spokesman for Stitt, said that despite Austin's rejection letter, the governor "maintains his position" that he is the commanding authority of the National Guard in the state of Oklahoma under Title 32 status.

Title 32 status means that the Guard members are on active duty under state control but with pay and benefits provided by the federal government, according to a Los Angeles Times report.

Stitt is the only governor as of the moment to publicly challenge the military mandate.

Stitt wrote a letter to Austin dated on November 2, arguing that the COVID vaccine mandate was a violation of Oklahomans' personal freedom.

The Oklahoma governor noted that the vaccine mandate asks the members to potentially sacrifice their personal beliefs just not to lose their jobs.

Military Penalties for Those Refusing Vaccine Mandate

Some of those refusing to be vaccinated could face transfers, travel restrictions, limits on deployments, and requirements to replay bonuses, according to an Associated Press News report.

In addition, Pentagon officials said that it will be a "case-by-case" basis for exemptions given for medical, religious, administrative reasons.

As many as 17 vaccines are being routinely given to military personnel. In addition, they can face penalties for refusing to have it.

Kirby earlier said that the secretary does not want to tell commanders how to resolve the punitive measures. Instead, they want to trust the commander that they will enforce what is best for their units.

Commanders can move service members into another job, deny them overseas deployment, or limit unit access if they get an exemption.

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This article is owned by Latin Post.

Written by: Mary Webber

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