Four Air Force Academy students may not graduate or be commissioned as military officers this month, and they may be compelled to repay thousands of dollars in tuition, according to Air Force authorities.
So far, the Air Force Institution is the only military academy to declare sanctions for not being vaccinated. The Army and Navy have stated that its seniors would not be prohibited from graduating this month due to their immunization status.
Lt. Col. Brian Maguire, spokesperson at the Air Force Academy, said the graduation is two weeks away and that the students still have time to “consider their options.” Two juniors, one sophomore, and six freshmen at the institution have also refused the COVID vaccination.
The Pentagon issued a vaccination mandate for service personnel, including those at military schools, last year. The vaccination, according to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, is critical to the military’s health and readiness.
“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.”