Last day for National Guard service members to get COVID-19 vaccines June 30; unvaccinated members to eventually be discharged

Sd National Guard Deployment 5RAPID CITY, S.D. – With COVID-19 being a major concern across the nation for years, the deadline for National Guard service members to get vaccinated was Thursday, June 30.

Thursday was the last day soldiers could get vaccinated and if they chose not to, they would eventually be discharged.

“Every soldier has a due process and we’ll work through those on an individual basis. Ultimately, in the end, if they are unable to train and drill, they will ultimately be discharged at some point. That’s a process that will take a little bit of time, but that will be the end result for unvaccinated soldiers going down the road,” Adjutant General for the South Dakota National Guard Jeff Marlette said. “There are some that chose to get into what’s called the inactive National Guard, and they can be in that for a while, and then should they later decide to become vaccinated or maybe something changes within the rules, they could come back in. But for now, they’ll be unable to train, which they’re unable to deploy or to serve.”

For the Guard, there were four categories that service members could fall into, which was get vaccinated, apply for religious exemption, apply for medical reasons, or refuse to take the shot.

S.D. National Guard is currently above the average with 95 percent vaccinated, while across the nation, service men in the National Guard are about 87 to 88 percent vaccinated.

With about 4,410 soldiers and airmen, the S.D. National Guard had 4 percent request a medical or religious exemption and 1 percent chose to not take the shot.Covidvacc

According to Adjutant Gen. Marlette, none of the request for exemptions have been approved or disapproved at this point.

“They’re all in the process of being worked. That’s outside of the state of South Dakota,” He said. “That’s been worked at the National Guard Bureau level and we would think we would have an answer on those later this fall.”

Any military member that applied for religious or medical exemption can continue to serve until an answer has been given to their request.

“The biggest challenge with this is that we train every day to have combat ready units deploy every day around the world. The South Dakota National Guard has literally had soldiers and airmen deployed somewhere in the world every day since 9/11, and so our units need to be full and ready and trained,” Adjutant Gen. said. “So, this will have an impact on readiness and we will need to rebuild in some cases where we’ve had some vacancies that will occur to get back to full readiness. But that’s what we do, is we will rebuild and get where we need to be to be able to serve our state and our country.”

Categories: Local News, South Dakota News