Rep. Jim Banks Grills General Milley on Wisdom of Kicking Out Troops Because of Vaccine Mandate

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    Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN), a Navy veteran, asked General Mark Milley on Tuesday during the House Armed Services Committee hearing if it was worth sacrificing US Armed Forces members to fulfill vaccination requirements.

    “Would you rather have a few extra battalions of unvaccinated soldiers, or not have them at all because of this?” Banks demanded of Milley.

    “The numbers are very low, by the way, of those that are refusing to be vaccinated, and they're even lower. I mean, it's tiny the numbers that are actually being asked to process out. So I think it's manageable, and I think that I would prefer that everybody just go ahead and get vaccinated,” Milley stated.

    At present, about 2 000 troops have been kicked out; however, the number could rise to thousands.

    Banks shared his observation that the Army National Guard (ARNG) missed its recent goal of acquiring 8,000 new recruits and also that the Army is planning to drastically reduce its staff size as a result of recruitment issues.

    Milley admitted that the recruitment issues were due to an insufficient number of qualified applicants and the need to cut costs.

    Banks also noted that the Army is giving new recruits up to $50,000 in sign-on bonuses while it severs ties with unvaccinated soldiers. “How much additional costs are we going to incur because of the increased recruiting bonuses to combat [the] projected losses for unvaccinated military personnel?” 

    Milley stated that he'd need to consult a cost analysis; however, he stressed that the number of soldiers within the Army who are ultimately kicked out will be “very, very small.”

    Banks stated that 2,692 troops, roughly the numbers of two Army battalions, haven't taken the vaccine and are likely to be exiled from the Army. “Once again, how is this loss of personnel going to hurt the overall end strength of the Army?” 

    Milley stated that in the event that all troops were removed, “I think that would hurt.” However, he said that some might be convinced to get the vaccine. “I think there's an issue of education here and persuasion, and making sure that these soldiers are making informed decisions.”

    Banks stated that six Army leadership members have been confronted with the mandate to get vaccinated and that it has been reported that the Army has issued 3,182 General Officer written warnings to active-duty soldiers for violating the vaccine mandate. “How has this loss of leadership and focus on administrative burdens improved Army warfighting readiness and enhanced combat power?”

    Milley admitted that he was disappointed with the commanders' resignations but added, “We are an institution that has a sole set of requirements, in terms of the health of the force and shots and et cetera. And there's a policy, and our job is to enforce the policy.”

    Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said despite the lower average daily cases, at just 0.0001 percent of the US population, the mandate to get vaccinated remains. “We've seen variants of this virus, you know, wane and then grow again. And so this is a medical readiness requirement, and it will remain so.”

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