The Oklahoma National Guard said unvaccinated airmen cannot participate in drills, days after a federal judge turned down the state’s bid to block the Pentagon’s vaccine mandate for National Guard members.
Brig. Gen. Thomas Mancino, commander of the state’s National Guard, acknowledged Tuesday’s court ruling in a message to the force, though he said the ruling doesn’t mean the legal fight is over.
Mancino also noted that the Department of Defense has said it will recoup pay provided to unvaccinated airmen who drill after Jan. 1, which can be enforced outside of the state’s control.
“With no possibility of injunctive relief before January 1st, 2022, I have decided to not allow unvaccinated Oklahoma Air National Guard Drill Status Guardsmen (DSGs), without a medical exemption or religious accommodation request, to participate in any future drill period, except for any Airmen wishing to be vaccinated,” Mancino wrote.
The Air Force recently extended the deadline for Air National Guard members to be vaccinated from Dec. 2 to Dec. 31. The Army gave its National Guard members until June 30, 2022, to come into compliance.
In a ruling on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Stephen Friot denied a motion from Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) and Attorney General John O’Connor to block the vaccine mandate, finding that their claims were without merit.
The ruling came amid a battle between Stitt and the Pentagon, which began after the governor asked Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to exempt his state’s Guard from the military’s vaccine mandate.
Shortly after the request, which was later denied, Mancino issued a memo stipulating that no member of the Oklahoma National Guard was required to be vaccinated.
But in a statement issued on Dec. 9, Mancino seemingly acknowledged that the state couldn’t evade the mandate when troops are called up for drills or further school.
“I continue to encourage everyone to get vaccinated, if you choose, and will continue to facilitate that option for any Airmen who wish to take it,” Mancino wrote in his latest message.