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Fort Rucker, an army base in Alabama, will now require uniformed personnel not wearing a face mask to provide proof of vaccination, the fort leadership said in a general order posted this week.
Fort Rucker becomes the first military base in the continental U.S. to take this action, The Washington Post reported.
“The big difference is going to be that if you are not wearing a mask, the leadership will be able to ask you, ask soldiers, to prove that they’ve been vaccinated by showing their vaccination card,” Maj. Gen. David Francis, the commanding general of Fort Rucker, said in a video posted on Facebook.
The order was issued as infection rates rise in Alabama, which has the second lowest vaccination rate in the nation.
Soldiers who aren’t fully vaccinated must also stay away from off-base bars, clubs, spas, massage parlors, and tattoo parlors.
Unmasked civilian personnel working on the base won’t be questioned about their vaccination status unless a military supervisor has a “good reason” to ask, the general order said.
The Washington Post said the commander of U.S. forces in South Korea issued a similar order last week, ordering all military personnel to wear masks while on U.S. installations and putting off-base bars and nightclubs off limits.
The U.S. military doesn’t require personnel to be vaccinated, but that could change soon, at least for some branches.
Army Times reported last week that the U.S. army has told commanders to prepare “to administer mandatory COVID-19 vaccines as early as Sept. 1, pending full Food and Drug Administration licensure.”
Army Times said the directive came from an “execute order” sent by the Department of the Army Headquarters. According to the Department of Defense, an execute order is “an order issued by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at the direction of the Secretary of Defense, to implement a decision by the President to initiate military operations.”
Military Times, a sister publication, quoted Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. John Nowell as saying the vaccine would become mandatory for people in the Navy when the FDA grants full approval.
At this time, the U.S. government has given emergency use authorization to three vaccines — Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson — but not full approval.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told The Washington Post that about 70% of military personnel have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
“That’s encouraging, but there’s more work to do, and so we continue to be in the mode of encouraging troops to get vaccinated to the maximum degree,” Kirby said.
Fort Rucker General Order.
The Washington Post: “Alabama military base is first in the U.S. to require vaccination proof amid rising covid-19 rates.”
Fort Rucker Facebook video.
Army Times: “Prepare for mandatory COVID vaccines in September, Army tells commands.”
Department of Defense: DOD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms.
Military Times: “CNP: COVID vaccines likely to become mandatory soon.”
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