OKLAHOMA CITY – The governor of Oklahoma this week fired the state’s highest military official, a vocal advocate of Covid vaccinations, replacing him with a general who immediately issued orders violating federal vaccine requirements for military personnel.
The governor, Kevin Stitt, is one of several Republican state officials across the country who have fought against The vaccination mandates of President Biden, which covers federal employees, federal contractors, and the military.
The new adjutant general of the state, Brigadier General Thomas H. Mancino, issued a memo on Thursday that read, in part, “I hereby order that no Oklahoma guard officer be required to take the Covid vaccine- 19, despite any other federal requirements. “
The memorandum also noted that the state would continue to consider vaccine exemption applications, albeit until now federal military authorities have conceded very few. He also said that “no negative administrative or legal action will be taken against the guards who refuse the Covid-19 vaccine.”
It is unclear whether General Mancino’s policy would run counter to the Pentagon’s vaccination mandate. In August, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said that all members of the military on active duty must be given a Covid-19 vaccine immediately. The directive it covered members of the armed forces “on active duty or in the Ready Reserve, including the National Guard”.
General Mancino issued the note the day after Mr. Stitt unexpectedly fired Major General Michael C. Thompson as adjutant general.
General Thompson, a 38-year military veteran and first black general in the Army State Guard, said that Mr. Stitt had lobbied state military officials to thwart federal vaccine requirements and said his position instead it was to warn the state troops that there are no “consequences” for the refusal of the vaccination order.
He said the governor offered no explanation when he called Wednesday to relieve him of command.
“It’s political,” General Thompson said. “There is no other reason for this.”
The governor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
General Thompson said lack of vaccinations would adversely affect the readiness of the National Guard troops. “I hate seeing us not reaching the finish line when we need it,” he added.
lt. Colonel Geoff Legler, the public affairs officer for the Oklahoma National Guard, said Mr. Stitt operated on the principle of “complete control” of the force within the state.
However, the officer noted, National Guard members attending federally funded schools in Oklahoma were still subject to the federal vaccination mandate.