The Army announced Friday that it has discharged three soldiers, the first time it has booted troops for failing to comply with the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
The service, which had a vaccination deadline of Dec. 15, 2021, announced that it would begin separating troops on Feb. 2. To date, it says 2,692 soldiers have refused the vaccine and it has issued 3,251 reprimands over the mandate.
In sharp contrast, the Navy had discharged 519 sailors as of Wednesday, and the Marine Corps said it had separated 1,038 Marines as of last week. The Air Force had separated 212 airmen as of Tuesday.
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The other services also began their discharge processes slowly, initially removing handfuls of people. The Navy started with 20 "entry level separations" and the Air Force with 27.
The Army has also granted two religious exemptions out of nearly 4,000 requests, the latest data shows. Those numbers are also similar to the other branches, which have granted only a handful of exemptions and, at least in the case of the Marine Corps, only to those who were already on their way out of the service.
The religious exemption process has been contentious and subject to several lawsuits by service members. Judges have ordered the military to hold off on separating a handful of Navy SEALs and three officers while their cases make their way through the legal system.
The Department of Defense's watchdog also recently announced it had opened an investigation into how the services have been handling exemption requests for the COVID-19 vaccination mandate amid allegations that the process is essentially meaningless.
Court filings made by the Navy SEALs "claim their accommodation requests are futile because denial is a predetermined outcome."
-- Konstantin Toropin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin.
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