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New Oklahoma National Guard leader eases vaccine policy

November 12, 2021 GMT

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — New Oklahoma National Guard Adjutant General Thomas Mancino has relaxed the Guard’s policy on COVID-19 vaccinations.

“No negative administrative or legal action will be taken against Guardsmen who refuse the COVID-19 vaccine,” he said in a memo dated Thursday, a day after Gov. Kevin Stitt named him to replace Gen. Michael Thompson.

Thompson supported vaccinations and had said members and federal civilian employees refusing them would be counseled on unspecified consequences.

A spokesperson for Stitt, a Republican who previously asked U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to suspend vaccination requirements for Oklahoma Guard members, said the leadership change was not related to vaccination policy.

“The governor had been exploring making a change for a number of months, and (Gen.) Thompson had submitted his resignation,” effective in January, said Stitt spokesperson Carly Atchison.

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“Once the governor selected (Gen.) Mancino as his replacement, the governor decided to move up the timeline.”

Mancino’s memo clarifies policy, Lt. Col. Geoff Legler told The Oklahoman, reflecting “the governor’s ability to assert his command authority over the men and women of the Oklahoma National Guard while they are within the state’s borders,” not when they take part in activities operated by the U.S. Defense Department.