The Army’s deadline for its part-time soldiers in the Army Reserve and Army National Guard to receive the COVID-19 vaccine passed last week, and tens of thousands of members face potential discharges as the service fights to buoy its end strength in a tough year for recruiting.
As of June 30, the deadline, approximately 12% of the Army Reserve was not yet fully vaccinated. That equates to roughly 22,740 troops.
About 44,000 Guard soldiers, or 13.1% of the 336,000-strong Army National Guard force, are also not fully vaccinated, a Guard Bureau spokesperson told Army Times.
A Guard expert reached by Army Times, Nathalie Grogan of the Center for a New American Security think tank, doesn’t think those numbers will get much higher, though. The service needs to brace for the operational impact of discharging a “pretty significant” number of troops, she said.
Most Guard and Reserve troops are only affiliated with the Army part-time, though, meaning they ostensibly have civilian jobs to fall back on. And Grogan noted that in some states, private employers are barred from linking vaccination status to employment.
“In the reserve components...they just don’t have the full leverage as [active duty with] your livelihood, your paycheck and your family’s benefits,” she explained. “We’re not really going to get many more people vaccinated.”
The first effects the organization may feel will be trying to meet federal mission requirements, which include tens of thousands of part-time troops deploying annually even as the Global War on Terrorism-era slowly draws to a close. The Guard and Reserve accounted for nearly half the troops deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
“[The mandate] just makes the pool of eligible soldiers...that much smaller for federal missions than [it] would otherwise be,” Grogan said.