Addressing a recruitment shortfall, the US Army is extending an invitation to former service members who had previously left because of COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
The Army’s director of personnel management, Brig. Gen. Hope Rampy recently confirmed the cessation of all current COVID-19 vaccination requirements, prompting a letter to be sent to ex-soldiers who had departed the service due to vaccine non-compliance. The letter reached approximately 1,900 former service members and suggested they file a “correction to military personnel records” and encouraged those interested in rejoining the service to connect with their local Army, Army Reserve, or National Guard recruiter.
During the period of mandatory COVID-19 vaccination, the Army saw 1,903 active-duty soldiers part ways with the service due to vaccine refusal, as per an Army spokesperson. “This is an integral part of the process to rescind the COVID mandate,” the spokesperson, Bryce Dubee, explained to the military blog Task & Purpose.
Rogan O’Handley, a conservative legal expert known by the pseudonym DC Draino, lauded the move as a victory for individual rights. He noted that the Army’s letter enables former troops to apply to alter the reasons for their discharge, potentially removing derogatory remarks or dishonorable discharges from their records. He also celebrated the Army’s decision to invite unvaccinated soldiers back into the military fold.
This shift in policy comes following a change in House majority to the Republicans in January, prompting the Pentagon to rescind COVID-19 vaccine requirements. Former President Donald Trump has been vocal about his intention to reinstate US service members who lost their jobs due to COVID-19 mandates, promising “back pay” at various campaign rallies.
The Army has been grappling with recruitment challenges, falling short of nearly 15,000 new soldiers in the previous year. This deficit has been attributed to reported instances of service member suicides and issues of sexual assault. In response, the Army is bolstering sign-on benefits and investing in a revamped ad campaign.
The number of soldiers separated due to the vaccination mandate was relatively small compared to the thousands that were denied religious exemptions, as reported by Task & Purpose.
Army Secretary Christine Wormuth is steering the Army’s advertising efforts back towards patriotism, reminiscent of the older “Be All You Can Be” slogan, after facing criticism from conservatives for a perceived focus on gender dysphoria and LGBTQ issues in recruitment ads.