Four Air Force Academy cadets may be withheld from graduating or being commissioned as military officers this month due to being unvaccinated against COVID-19.
Per Fox News, Air Force officials said that the cadets could be forced to pay back thousands in tuition. Air Force Academy spokesman Lt. Col. Brian Maguire said that with graduation still two months away, the cadets still have time to “weigh their options.”
The Army and Navy said their seniors haven’t been mandated to take the vaccine in order to graduate. During one of the heights of the pandemic last year, the Pentagon announced a vaccine mandate for all service members.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in the August memo that the vaccine mandate was crucial in having a “healthy and ready force.”
“To defend this Nation, we need a healthy and ready force,” Austin wrote in an August memo. “After careful consultation with medical experts and military leadership, and with the support of the President, I have determined that mandatory vaccination against coronavirus disease 2019 [COVID-19] is necessary to protect the Force and defend the American people.”
Nearly 4,000 active duty service members have been discharged by the Marine Corps, Navy, Army and Air Force for refusing to take the vaccine. At least 50 service members were discharged during entry level training.