McMaster: SC won’t punish Guardsmen who refuse COVID-19 vaccine
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - Gov. Henry McMaster says the Palmetto State will take no part in punishing National Guardsmen who choose not to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
McMaster sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin urging him to rescind the federal vaccine mandate for Guardsmen, saying it is “likely unlawful.”
“Unless the Department [of Defense] agrees to cease enforcement of these mandates or a court enjoins the same, I intend to make clear that any adverse action taken against a member of the South Carolina National Guard on account of their vaccination status is not of my making but is solely due to the Department’s implementation of the Biden Administration’s misguided and unlawful policies,” McMaster wrote.
McMaster said he plans to “withhold court-martial convening authority for the Adjutant General and any subordinate commanders in connection with a soldier’s failure to comply with the Department’s vaccine mandates.”
“I will continue to follow closely the pending litigation challenging the Department’s unprecedented assertion of authority, and I expect that, like other vaccine mandates issued by the Biden Administration, the Department’s directives will not withstand judicial scrutiny. In the meantime, I respectfully encourage you to revisit, reconsider, and rescind the Department’s previous directives both to account for current circumstances and to avoid further negative impacts on the “boots on the ground,” he wrote.
McMaster said that while he appreciates the DOD’s stated desire to ensure COVID-19 does not temporarily “take our Service members out of the fight,” he fails to see how that mandate accomplishes this goal.
“Instead, it appears that the Department’s plans to proceed with this mandate are having the opposite effect, permanently sidelining members of our National Guard—whether voluntarily or involuntarily—who do not wish to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. In addition to reducing the size of available forces and disrupting current mission readiness, compelling our men and women in uniform to choose between serving their State and Nation or setting aside their objections to COVID-19 vaccines is negatively impacting our ability to recruit and retain members of the South Carolina National Guard,” McMaster wrote.
The Department of Defense responded to a request for comment on McMaster’s letter Tuesday, saying that “as with all correspondence,” the department will respond to the author of the letter.
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