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The commander of Fort Ruckus in Alabama has ordered that all military personnel who are not vaccinated wear face masks while on base – and anyone seen without a mask must present their vaccination card.
Major General David J. Francis, who has commanded the base since 2019, updated the rules on Tuesday.
Alabama is seeing a rise in COVID cases, and has the lowest vaccination rate in the country, jointly with Mississippi.
Only 33 per cent of the state’s population fully vaccinated, according to John Hopkins University, and Alabama’s positivity rate has increased to 4.8 per cent – its highest point since mid-May.
On Tuesday, Francis ordered that all ‘unmasked, fully vaccinated servicemembers must be prepared to show proof of vaccination (CDC vaccination card or other medical documentation).’
Major General David J. Francis, the commander of Fort Rucker in Alabama, on Tuesday announced that all service members should expect to be asked to prove they were vaccinated against COVID-19, unless they were wearing a face mask
Fort Rucker in Alabama is home to around 20,000 members of the military, their family, and civilian staff
The base is home to 5,009 military members; 10,104 civilians; and 5,097 military family members.
Civilian employees cannot be asked about whether they have been vaccinated ‘unless the supervisor has a reasonable basis to believe, based on reliable evidence, that the unmasked employee is not fully vaccinated.’
The guidance states: ‘Any supervisor who suspects an unmasked civilian employee of not being fully vaccinated should first talk with their legal advisor and thoroughly document the basis for his/her belief before taking any action.’
Military personnel who are not vaccinated are banned from all bars, night clubs, dance clubs, spas, massage parlors, and tattoo parlors.
They must also quarantine for seven days if they travel more than 250 days from the base.
Service members are seen attending a mass vaccination site on February 9 at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam
Anyone who is found to be violating the rules will be disciplined, although Francis leaves the punishment up to supervisors.
‘The provisions of this General Order are punitive,’ he writes.
‘Through this General Order, the following personnel may be subject to administrative or disciplinary action: all Service Members permanently or temporarily assigned to, attached to, or present on Fort Rucker, and non-DA civilians on the installation.’
He writes: ‘Vaccinations remain an individual choice. All personnel are encouraged to take the vaccine to protect themselves from COVID and reduce the risk of transmission to others.’
Many vaccines are already compulsory for military members, depending on their post. Among the jabs widely mandated are the annual flu shot, polio, chicken pox, MMR and typhoid.
A service member is photographed getting his COVID-19 jab on February 9 at Pearl Harbor
On July 6 the Pentagon spokesman, John Kirby, said that the armed forces could make COVID-19 vaccines compulsory, once they have been approved by the FDA.
At present the approval is for emergency use.
He said that Defense Department senior leaders have had ‘preliminary discussions’ about making the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory.
‘Right now it’s being used under Emergency Use Authorization, which makes it a voluntary vaccine,’ he said. ‘
Should the FDA approve it, then I am certain that Pentagon leadership will take a look at what our options are going forward, including the potential option of making mandatory.’
Army Times reported the Army’s planning directive to prepare for full vaccinations from September, which came via an execute order sent to the force by Department of the Army Headquarters.
The Navy also recently told sailors to expect a mandatory vaccination program despite having the highest voluntary vaccine acceptance rate thus far.
Kirby said nearly 69 per cent of the force has received at least one dose of the vaccine, but demand for the vaccine is slowing.
As of July 6, 77 per cent of active duty sailors had received at least one dose, according to data shared by Army Lt. Gen. Ronald Place, director of the Defense Health Agency.
The Army is second with 70 per cent, followed by 61 per cent for the Air Force and 58 per cent for the Marine Corps.