Georgia Guard says it is complying with COVID-19 vaccine mandate

Credit: Curtis Compton /

Credit: Curtis Compton /

Adjutant general: Guard will meet Defense Department’s vaccine deadlines

The Georgia National Guard is complying with the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate and will meet the government’s deadlines for getting shots in troops’ arms, Georgia Adjutant General Thomas Carden Jr. said Wednesday.

Well over 90% of Georgia’s roughly 2,900 Air National Guardsmen had already complied ahead of their Thursday deadline to be fully vaccinated, Carden said. Some have requested exemptions, Carden added, though he declined to say how many.

Carden said he expects the Georgia Army National Guard’s compliance to “improve even more” as its June 30 deadline approaches. He declined to say how many of Georgia’s more than 11,000 Army National Guardsmen have been vaccinated and how many have asked for exemptions.

“This is actually a very simple issue for us,” Carden told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday. “We are in receipt of a lawful order, and we are treating it like every other lawful order. We intend to fully comply with the order and meet the deadlines that have been set by the Department of Defense.”

On Tuesday, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III issued a memo saying all National Guardsmen and reservists must get vaccinated or face loss of pay and other consequences. He issued that memo amid an ongoing dispute between the Pentagon and the Oklahoma National Guard over the vaccine mandate.

“As I’ve said before, vaccination of the Force will save lives and is essential to our readiness,” Austin wrote in his memo.

Austin issued that memo after Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt asked for the vaccine mandate to be suspended for the Oklahoma National Guard. Stitt said estimates show more than 800 Oklahoma Guardsmen have not received or are not planning to get the COVID-19 vaccine and that they represent 10% of the state’s overall force.

“This mandate violates the personal freedoms of many Oklahomans, as it asks them to potentially sacrifice their personal beliefs in order to not lose their jobs,” the Republican governor wrote Austin, adding: “It is irresponsible for the federal government to place mandatory vaccine obligations on Oklahoma National Guardsmen which could potentially limit the number of individuals that I can call upon to assist the state during an emergency.”

“As I've said before, vaccination of the Force will save lives and is essential to our readiness."

- Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, in a memo

The Associated Press reported Monday that Austin rejected Stitt’s request, saying all Oklahoma National Guardsmen must comply with the vaccination requirements and that failing to do so “may lead to a prohibition on the member’s participation in drills and training” and “jeopardize the member’s status in the National Guard.”

As of Nov. 24, 1.5 million U.S. military servicemembers — including Guardsmen and reservists — and 341,836 Defense Department civilian employees have been fully vaccinated, federal statistics show. Meanwhile, 392,077 cases of COVID-19 have been recorded among servicemembers and Defense Department civilian employees, their dependents and contractors. Of those, 5,529 have been hospitalized, 377,602 have recovered and 607 have died from COVID-19.