McMaster: S.C. will not punish National Guardsmen who don’t get vaccinated

Published: Feb. 21, 2022 at 1:29 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WMBF) – South Carolina’s governor said he will have no part in punishing National Guardsmen who are not vaccinated against COVID-19.

Gov. Henry McMaster sent a letter last week to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, urging him to reconsider and rescind the Department of Defense’s directive that imposes COVID-19 vaccine requirements on members of the South Carolina National Guard.

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“The vaccine mandates issued by the Department’s Service Secretaries are at odds with law and logic, both because they exceed the federal government’s constitutional and statutory authority and because they fail to account for the current circumstances related to COVID-19,” the letter stated.

McMaster said in the letter that he appreciates the desire to make sure that COVID-19 doesn’t “take our Service members out of the fight,” but he said he fails to see how the mandate accomplishes that goal since guardsmen who are not vaccinated are permanently sidelined.

He added that the mandate is having a negative impact on recruiting and retaining members of the South Carolina National Guard.

McMaster said if the Department of Defense moves forward with enforcing the mandate, he will not take part in court-martialing a guardsman who fails to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

“I intend to make clear that the Biden Administration will be solely responsible for any consequences brought to bear on a member of the South Carolina National Guard based on their vaccination status,” McMaster wrote.

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