Oklahoma National Guard Faces Off with Pentagon Over Vaccine Mandate

Recently appointed Oklahoma National Guard Adjutant General Thomas Mancino is refusing to enforce the Defense Department’s vaccine mandate on Oklahoma’s National Guard troops, according to a report.
Kendall James/Oklahoma National Guard

The Oklahoma National Guard is facing off against the Biden Pentagon over its vaccine mandate for service members.

The Oklahoma Adjutant General, Brig. Gen. Tommy Mancino, issued a memo last week at the request of Gov. Kevin Stitt that said the state would take “no negative administrative or legal action” against Guard members who decline to take the vaccine, despite a mandatory order to do so by the Pentagon.

National Guard members fall under Title 32 state authorities and take orders from the state governor unless they are activated under Title 10 federal authorities and take orders from the president or his designated authority.

Mancino said that Oklahoma National Guard members would have to follow the governor’s lawful orders while on Title 32 activation.

“Failing to follow the Governor’s lawful orders while on Title 32 would be both illegal, unethical, and against our sworn oaths,” he said in a recent interview with Stars & Stripes.

However, he added that those who want to get the vaccine may do so if they want. “Nothing in this order prevents anyone from taking the vaccine,” he said.

He said Stitt’s order does not eliminate the Pentagon mandate, but that the governor is “hoping for Federal Relief from Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and in the interim has granted state relief from this requirement.”

Nonetheless, a defense official who wished to speak on background to reporters on Wednesday said that Oklahoma National Guard members who do not get vaccinated could face consequences if they are activated on federal missions and may miss out on benefits and opportunities associated with those missions.

Mancino told the paper that with about 90 percent of Guard members vaccinated or intending to get vaccinated, there will be no problem for the Oklahoma National Guard to meet its federal missions despite some Guard members not being vaccinated.

“The Oklahoma National Guard is dedicated to ensuring that we miss no federal missions,” he told the paper. “We may have to adjust who goes, but we will meet our federal requirements in Oklahoma.”

Mancino added: “If you 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.”

He noted that members are not subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice when on Title 32 status, but instead the Oklahoma Code of Military Justice.

Mancino said Stitt has asked Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin for relief for Oklahoma National Guard members, and that the National Guard Bureau will conduct a legal review of the state’s position.

“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,” he said.

Mancino told the paper he is “extremely proud” to have the opportunity to help the nation to “understand the Constitution and the implications of Title 32 authority.”

“I feel like I have acted in the best traditions of the professional military,” he said. “I believe that the command authority lies with the governors and having the opportunity to emphasize that and help educate the nation is an honor,” he said.

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