Commander’s COVID Overreach? – The Commanding General of the storied ‘Screaming Eagles’ 101st Air Assault Division at Ft Campbell, Kentucky, publicly stated two days ago that he would deny leave to soldiers who declined to get the COVID vaccine. Major General JP McGee also said he would consider other travel restrictions against non-complying soldiers. However, this appears to contravene a May 13 directive from the Office of Secretary of Defense (OSD) barring commanders from asking the vaccination status of his or her troops.
According to PopularMilitary.com, based on reporting from ClarksvilleNow, the commander’s staff are considering several penalties for non-compliance, including limited range of travel and increased reporting requirements for soldiers. The paper added that McGee claimed that those wishing to avoid the vaccine will encounter trouble and “should not consider things business as usual.” McGee went further, saying:
It would be irresponsible of me to allow soldiers to travel unvaccinated throughout the United States and bring that back and have an impact on our soldiers, their families and our overall operational readiness. I’m sure that’s not gonna be a popular decision for some, and that’s quite alright.
If you are a vaccinated soldier and you’ve received 2 vaccines, you’re at incredibly low risk of contracting the virus and bringing it back. You pose minimal to no risk. For them, they’ll be able take leave unhindered and with no additional requirements. For those soldiers that choose, as is their right, to not take the vaccine, we will prudently apply measures of how we will make sure you are able to travel safely.
General McGee may need to reconsider his words, since the commander’s guidance set by the Deputy Secretary of Defense in a May 13 Memorandum titled ‘Updated Mask Guidance for Vaccinated Persons‘ bars commanders from asking about soldiers’, or employees,’ vaccination status. This memo clearly states that:
Commanders and supervisors should not ask about an employees’ vaccination status or use information about an employee’s vaccination status to make decisions about how and when employees will report to a workplace instead of telecommuting.
Senior Pentagon sources told me that the General’s actions could merit an Inspector General (IG) complaint by anyone in the chain of command, if he doesn’t fall in line with the OSD directive. Others suggested that the Army should simply direct the general to abort his policy.
Yesterday’s Pentagon directive may also have been issued specifically because of the General’s earlier public statements. Either way, General McGee should probably reign in the COVID overreach. The boss at OSD appears to have spoken. ADN