Stories have surfaced about how the Biden military vaccine mandate continues to threaten America’s military strength and the freedoms our soldiers are supposed to defend.

Biden’s mandate came into effect last year. Last August, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order forbidding vaccine mandates in the Texas military. On January 4, Attorney Gen. Ken Paxton sued the Biden administration over the mandate.

However, the mandate is still affecting those in Texas’ military, particularly at a time when ongoing illegal border crossings show a need for a strong and active state military.

Crystal Demaret, an enlistee into the Texas National Guard (TNG), shared how her religious rights were targeted when she was threatened with a dishonorable discharge if she did not receive a COVID-19 vaccination.

She is not alone. Two more came forward sharing their experiences with how Biden’s mandate is operating in the Texas National Guard.

Ammon Blair
“The military is no longer a conservative organization.”

Those are the words of Ammon Blair, who said he was forced to leave the TNG after refusing a COVID-19 vaccination. “I was forced out on March 28. I had to resign my commission,” he told Texas Scorecard. “I’ve given 22 years to what I thought was the US defending the Constitution. In all reality, it was to the institution that was created to secure that Constitution.”

​​The institutions that were formed and created to defend that constitution, they’re now being formed and framed to secure ideologies.

Blair shared with us what appears to be a timeline from the National Guard Bureau for the military vaccine mandate. Key dates of note are March 1, 2022, when exemption requests must be submitted by; July 1, 2022, when full vaccination or approved exemptions are required to drill or train; and October 1, 2022, when the Secretary of the Army is to “initiate involuntary separations for refusals.” January 31, 2023 is the “grace period” deadline “for planned separations/retirements.”

Texas Scorecard asked the National Guard Bureau if they could confirm the authenticity of this document. “We will work to see if we can confirm authenticity and to do our best meet your deadline,” replied Nahaku McFadden, chief of media operations at the National Guard Bureau, on September 14. McFadden estimated it could take a few days “since we have to find the office that may have created this product and get it confirmed.”

At 4:09 PM, September 27, hours after this story was published, McFadden provided an update. “I am able to confirm the authenticity of the slide. There isn’t an update because it was forecasting potential events,” McFadden wrote. “You may be aware that many actions displayed on the below timelines have not taken place and Compo 2/3 are still awaiting Sec Army decision on Phase 2 implementation.”

The only part of the slide that mentions “Compo 2/3” is for this May. The slide reads “projected publication of AD directing separation actions for COMPOS 2/3.”

Texas Scorecard also asked the Texas Military Department for confirmation. “Upon review, we are not the originator of this product and therefore cannot to [sic] confirm its authenticity,” their public affairs office replied. “Since the logo appears to be from the National Guard Bureau, we recommend you contact them for verification.”

Unlike Demaret, who was threatened with a dishonorable discharge, Blair got an honorable one. He credits his unit for this, saying they were “looking out for” him, and put him down as “not able to finish Infantry Basic Officer Leaders Course.”

They did that, so that I could get an honorable discharge.

However, Blair was having problems in the military before the military vaccine mandate became an issue. Those problems were what triggered him being forced out early, two weeks after Gov. Abbott fired then-Texas Adjutant General Tracy Norris, instead of the military waiting until June of this year.

It all started with an injury he got in early 2020. He broke his leg while on federal orders, and had to have surgery at Fort Benning, Georgia. Afterwards he was sent back to Texas to serve on the border patrol. “What should have happened is I should have remained on military orders until I was 100 percent. But that didn’t happen,” Blair said. “They took me off orders and sent me back home.”

Rather than take responsibility for his recovery, the U.S. National Guard and Texas National Guard spent time pointing fingers at each other.

While at the border, Blair said the TNG complained to the National Guard that because of his condition, they didn’t know what to do with him. “Luckily, I have good supervisors here. They just put me in the Tactical Operations Center. It’s where all the camera systems are,” he said. “Finally, they’re like we can’t keep you in here. I had to have a military doctor from Fort Sam Houston, write a document, without even seeing me, saying I was good to go back on the line in border patrol. Otherwise, I was subject to going back on leave without pay.”

Still, rather than just assuming responsibility and paying for his therapy, Blair said the Texas National Guard instead had him repeatedly fill out paperwork to try and get back on federal military orders, and federal taxpayer pay. “I was fighting it for over a year to try to get back on military orders to get physical therapy done, and they wouldn’t put me on it,” he said. “I had to teach myself how to walk again. My recovery took a long time.”

Then came his conflict with the Biden military vaccine mandate. Blair was nearly recovered, and had a military leadership class scheduled on January 4 of this year. He was not allowed to go because of his vaccination status. “They said, ‘You have a choice. You have to be vaccinated and you can go, or else, if you are not vaccinated, we have to kick you out,’” he recalled.

Blair said his battle buddies were divided into two camps on the mandate. The first were those who did not care because of all the vaccines administered when they enlisted. The other camp was against it, calling it “politically motivated,” according to Blair, and were especially resistant since it was being forced.

Despite Gov. Abbott’s executive order and Paxton’s lawsuit, the Texas Military Department appeared to be enforcing the mandate, not fighting it. Blair shared with Texas Scorecard records he received when he attended a February 18 Texas Military town hall this year. These records give the impression the town hall’s goal was to pressure soldiers to vaccinate. Blair called it a “re-education camp.”

These records outline the requirements and deadlines of the Biden mandate, and how it reached all the way into the state’s military.

Among the records he shared was a memo from Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III, announcing the vaccine mandate on August 24, 2021. In part Austin ordered, “I therefore direct the Secretaries of the Military Departments to immediately begin full vaccination of all members of the Armed Forces under DoD authority on active duty or in the Ready Reserve, including the National Guard, who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19.”

That same month, Gov. Abbott issued an executive order forbidding vaccine mandates in the Texas military. Secretary Austin seemed to retaliate later. The next memo from him, dated November 30, 2021, addresses “the failure to maintain” the vaccine mandate “by members of the non-federalized National Guard who remain unvaccinated.” Austin’s new policy stated, “unless otherwise exempted in accordance with Department policy,” everyone in the National Guard had to be “fully vaccinated” by deadlines set by the Army and Air Force.

It also states that “no Department of Defense funding” can be used to pay “Title 32 members of the National Guard who do not comply” with the vaccine mandate. “No credit or excused absence shall be afforded to members who do not participate in drills, training, or other duty due to failure to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.”

Blair said “drills” are the “monthly time in service” for those in the National Guard and Army Reserves. “When you go on drill status on drill weekend, you are under a title 32 status, you’re not in state active duty.” In other words, you are paid by federal, not state, taxpayers.

Enlistee Crystal Demaret shared in our previous article how she’s in a holding pattern, and has yet to be told when she can attend drills.

Blair also provided more records from the Texas Military Department addressing the mandate, from the same February 18 town hall this year.

He shared parts one and two of a memo dated February 1, 2022 to the 36th Infantry Division. it’s from Maj. Gen. Charles Aris and Command Sgt. Maj. Clinton Petty, both of the Texas National Guard. It bears the Texas Military Department logo.

Aris was later relieved along with then-Texas Adjutant General Tracy Norris in March.

The memo outlines the “COVID-19 Vaccination Guidance and Policy Education” for the 36th. While outlining the actions of Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton against the mandate, the letter stated it wasn’t clear if these efforts would help in time. What was clear was Texas soldiers were under siege.

“After 30 June if a soldier is not fully vaccinated soldiers will not be paid for IDT, AT or any other federal pay,” Aris wrote. “By declining to become fully vaccinated by the June 30th 2022 deadline, the Department of the Army may subject you to loss of pay, benefits, and a potential discharge from the Army.”

Aris also described the process for obtaining an exemption, and that these were due March 1, 2022. While claiming the Texas Military Department would not be forcing soldiers to get vaccinated, this letter, as well as previously reported undercover recordings of Aris, show soldiers were being pressured.

There’s also a policy letter Blair obtained at the town hall.

“The Department of the Army has ordered no Title 32 pay for duty for those unvaccinated or without an approved accommodation/exemption beginning July 1, 2022,” it reads. “This order will, among other things, affect the federal pay of unvaccinated Texas Army National Guardsmen (TXARNG) conducting Title 32 annual training, inactive duty for training (IDT), or active guard reserve (AGR) service.”

It explains that, depending on how Texas’ lawsuit against the Biden military mandate goes, “the federal government will not pay those unvaccinated or without an approved accommodation/exemption beginning 1 July 2022.” The memo also said unvaccinated members are “prohibited” from Title 10 deployments, attending Training Doctrine and Command (TRADOC) schools, and that after July 1, the Texas Army National Guard will not “be eligible” to do Title 32 duty. Consequently, soldier’s retirement, bonuses, tuition help, and other federal benefits would be affected.

Texas Scorecard asked the U.S. Department of Defense to confirm the authenticity of the records with their watermark on them, and if the TMD records accurately reflect Secretary of Defense Austin’s and the department’s policy. Finally, we asked what happens to soldiers in all branches of the military, including the individual state National Guards, who refuse to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, and if dishonorable discharge is a possible outcome.

“I’m going to refer you to the TX National Guard,” replied Kurt M. Rauschenberg of the National Guard Bureau Public Affairs.

“We can confirm the 36th ID documents were published by the former division commander and division adjutant,” the Texas Military Department stated in an email.

Blair was discharged two weeks after Gov. Abbott fired then-Texas Adjutant General Tracy Norris over ongoing criticism of her mishandling of Operation Lone Star, Abbott’s border security action. Abbott replaced Norris with Maj. Gen. Thomas Suelzer. Blair believes Suelzer was unaware of his own termination.

Another soldier came forward with his own struggle with the Biden military vaccine mandate in Texas.

Sgt. Daniel Peters
Unlike Blair, Sgt. Peters is still in the Texas National Guard, and has been for five years.

“I was in the Marine Corps previously back in the ’90s. When I got out of that, I started doing contracting overseas,” he told Texas Scorecard.

He joined the National Guard in about 2016. “Originally, I was in the infantry, and then I had gotten out for a year, and came back in aviation.”

Like Blair and Demaret, Peters has also been targeted by the mandate. Like them, he has refused to comply. “The red flag for me was as soon as, from day one … they indemnified the makers of these ‘vaccinations’ against all lawsuits,” he said. “You can’t say something is ‘safe and effective’ on day one without a five or 10 year study.”

Sgt. Peters shared with us what appears to be a memo, dated June 10, 2022, signed by Lt. Gen. Marc Sasseville, Vice Chief of the National Guard Bureau. This memo addressed COVID-19 vaccination policy for “all national guard personnel.”

“Effective immediately for the Air National Guard, and beginning 01 July 2022, for the Army National Guard, Service members who are not fully-vaccinated and do not have an approved or pending exemption may not attend annual training, drill periods, or exercises,” the memo states.

Texas Scorecard asked Kurt Rauschenberg of the U.S. National Guard Bureau Public Affairs about this document. “Yes, I can confirm that memo is authentic,” he replied.

Sgt. Peters discussed with us the Texas Military Department’s relationship with the Biden military mandate.

“It comes from the Feds, but if the Texas Military Department follows the rules, they’re being forced to discharge people because the regulations say if you miss so many drills, then you will be discharged,” he said. “However, the federal government is withholding pay to force people to miss those drills. So if the Texas Military Department follows the rules and regulations, they have to discharge these individuals.”

Sgt. Peters said they already went to drill in June, but there’s been no word about another one since. “The last thing they said in June is ‘well, we still haven’t gotten any new word on this.’” Because he’s not heard anything about another drill, he expects he will be forced out in either October or December. “I take it personal, as a slap in the face.”

As of September 8, like Demaret, Peters is still in a holding pattern. He told Texas Scorecard that while he’s still in the force, but not allowed to attend drills, and without going to drill you don’t get paid.

But he believes Texas is using a strategy to try and stop unvaccinated soldiers from being kicked out.

“Texas is saying, ‘hey, we already used up all our money this fiscal year, so these guys aren’t going to be coming to drill,” he said. “Technically, they can say, ‘hey, they’re not AWOL because we don’t have the money to pay them.”

If they tell you not to come in because they used up their money for the year, obviously they can’t start that [discharging] process.

He emphasizes his belief is his own read of the situation, and no one has told him this is the plan.

Blair has a different viewpoint. He said the discharges won’t start until after October 1. “It’s all about money,” he said. “The Texas Military Department is going to get funding for every soldier that’s in the National Guard. If they kick everyone out prior to [October 1], they’re not going to get the same funding in the next [Fiscal Year].”

Like Blair, Sgt. Peters knows those who are resisting the mandate, and those who are complying. He said a pressure point for older individuals, who’ve been in the Texas National Guard for a while, is the health insurance that can be provided for their families if they stay. “They’re sucking it up for their families, and they’re taking the vaccination.”

Unlike Blair or Demaret, Sgt. Peters has found a safe space. “My unit has been exceptional,” he said. “They have not pressured [me].” All he recalled was his colonel asked his soldiers to let him know if they had decided to get vaccinated or not. If they had not, then he could not put them on the deployment list for Operation Inherent Resolve.

That was all. No struggle sessions or hard sell.

”Of course, the medical staff, they went ahead and repeated the company line of ‘safe and effective,’ and yada, yada, yada,” Sgt. Peters said.

Texas Scorecard asked the Texas Military Department about what Blair and Sgt. Peters’ told us regarding how the Biden military vaccine mandate is operating in Texas.

“TMD has not discharged any service members due to unvaccinated status,” TMD’s Public Affairs Office replied September 23. “TMD adheres to Texas Governor Abbott’s Executive Order GA-39.”

For Rebecca Hardy of Texans for Vaccine Choice, stories like those shared by Demaret, Blair, and Sgt. Peters aren’t new. “Unfortunately, while despicable, this isn’t surprising,” she told Texas Scorecard. “We’ve been aware of this problem for some time and have called on elected officials to work to protect soldiers from mandates immediately.”

What Next?
We asked Blair if he knew of others facing dishonorable discharge, or less than honorable, for refusing a COVID-19 vaccination. “I think there’s a few.”

Sgt. Peters said the mandate is bleeding pilots from Texas’ military. “I’m in an aviation unit. These pilots, who are highly skilled, have multiple deployments. They’re sticking to their guns, and they’re getting forced out just like the enlisted people are,” he said. “The army is … losing these highly skilled aviators they spent tons of money to put through school.”

Why would any military service in the United States tolerate or agree with this? It might be because of a third camp Blair mentioned in the military. This camp believes, if you don’t follow the mandate, that you’re threatening the health of your teammates.

“The notion that a healthy volunteer soldier who has refused to take an experimental and ineffective vaccine is worth less to the cause of defending the freedom of this country than one who has submitted, should be absolutely repugnant to the sensibilities of any freedom-loving Texan,” said Andy Hopper, co-founder of Wise County Conservatives. He also serves as a chief warrant officer in the Texas State Guard.

In our next article, we will look deeper at the intense scientific debate surrounding COVID-19 vaccinations. If you or someone you know in the Texas military are facing consequences for not receiving a COVID-19 vaccination, please contact us at rmontoya@texasscorecard.com.

This article has been updated since publication to include the National Guard Bureau’s final response to our request to confirm or deny the authenticity of the vaccine mandate timeline image.

Robert Montoya

A former filmmaker, University of North Texas graduate, and one-time assistant language teacher, Robert Montoya misses Japan and the 1980s. He is an investigative reporter for Texas Scorecard.

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