A statement by the Brigadier General of the Oklahoma National Guard makes it clear that it’s not OK for the federal government to force the Covid-19 vaccine on the men and women of the Sooner State’s National Guard.
In a statement posted on the Oklahoma National Guard website, Brig. Gen. Thomas H. Mancino, the adjutant general for Oklahoma, said:
“This policy is not anti-vaccine. I and the Governor are both vaccinated. I encourage all our Oklahoma Guard Members to get vaccinated if they choose to do so. We want to educate and inform our Soldiers and Airmen so that they can make an informed decision regarding the DoD Vaccine Mandate,” Mancino said in the statement.
“Under Title 32, Congress established a dual framework for the National Guard. The states receive federal funding in return for being made available to the federal government when called to active duty by the President.
“Under Title 32, the Oklahoma National Guard is a state-controlled and federally-funded entity and takes orders from the Governor and his designated chain of command. When mobilized by the President, under Title 10, the Oklahoma National Guard takes all orders from the President and his designated chain of command.
“Failing to follow the Governor’s lawful orders while on Title 32 would be both illegal, unethical, and against our sworn oaths. Nothing in this order prevents anyone from taking the vaccine. Also, nothing in his order eliminates the Federal Requirement. The Governor is hoping for Federal Relief from Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and in the interim has granted state relief from this requirement,” he wrote.
Until a Guardsman is activated under Title 10, Mancino said they follow the lawful commands of the governor of the State of Oklahoma, who has not mandated the COVID-19 vaccine for Oklahoma Guard Members. Once activated to title 10 status, Guardsmen are subject to all Title 10 laws and mandates until returning to Title 32 status.
“If you [Oklahoma Guard Members] are not mobilized on Title 10 orders, the only entity that can give you a ‘lawful’ order – that is an order backed by the authority of law – is the Governor and his designated State chain of command. That ‘law’ is Title 32 U.S. code,” Mancino said. “This is easily seen by the fact that the UCMJ does not apply to you in Title 32 status. Instead, you are governed by the Oklahoma Code of Military Justice (OCMJ).”
Brig. Gen. Mancino provided clarity to Gov. Kevin Stitt’s order that soldiers and airmen in the Oklahoma National Guard are relieved from this requirement until mobilized in accordance with the Constitution, the Law, and sworn oath, the statement said.
“The Governor’s request is with Secretary Austin for decision, and the National Guard Bureau has indicated it will conduct a legal review of our position,” Mancino said. “The proper venue for the resolution of these issues is the Governor’s office, Congress, and the Federal Executive branch. Not the court of public opinion in the press or on social media,”
The order came one day after the governor replaced the adjutant general, after Maj. Gen. Michael Thompson, who had served as adjutant general since November 2017, said he would enforce the order from the Pentagon.
On Nov. 2, Gov. Stitt had written to Department of Defense Sec. Lloyd J. Austin III, asking him to suspend the vaccine requirement for Oklahoma National Guard personnel. He said the mandate violates the personal freedoms of many Oklahomans, as it “asks them to potentially sacrifice their personal beliefs in order to not lose their jobs. All of our national guardsmen take this calling very seriously. These are patriotic citizens who are willing to put their lives on the line to protect others in our communities during times of greatest need.”
The Pentagon said that it would have a response, and said that a vaccinated force is a ready force. Sec. of Defense Austin could respond by activating the force, and thereby bringing them under his command and forcing the vaccine. But there would likely be a heavy political cost to doing so.