COLORADO SPRINGS — The United States Air Force Academy is a world-renowned university located right here in Colorado Springs. The public school and military academy prides itself on providing a “world-class education,” military training, and character-building.
Cadets go on to serve as officers in the Air and Space Forces.
And they must also adhere to certain guidelines enacted for service members – including, at this time, mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin – also slated as this year’s speaker at the USAFA graduation ceremony – issued that mandate last year, saying it’s critical to maintain military readiness.
According to USAFA, “This vaccine requirement is in addition to the eight other vaccines required of all individuals for accession into the military.“
This month, a group of four cadets, all set to graduate next week, announced their refusal of the vaccine.
This week, one cadet from that group decided to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Another submitted paperwork to resign from the academy.
Two cadets continue to hold their ground.
“This refusal, if it continues, may impact their ability to graduate and commission. Cadets with health and religious concerns were given the opportunity to follow Air Force policy in requesting accommodation based on their faith traditions or medical condition,” said Lt. Col. Brian Maguire, Director, Public Affairs, US Air Force Academy in a statement Wednesday. “Part of that religious accommodation process included an interview with a chaplain who determined if the cadet had a sincerely held religious belief. However, even if an individual holds a sincerely held religious belief, the decision authority, in this instance the Superintendent, must weigh that belief against the compelling government interest of ensuring a safe and ready force – crucial to meet global deployment responsibilities.”
But there’s still time for those cadets to reach compliance with the vaccine mandate and still graduate with their class.
“If they start a vaccine regimen and commit to finishing it according to the FDA/CDC recommendations, they can graduate and commission with the rest of the class on May 25. They must be fully vaccinated by Aug. 1,” Lt. Col. Maguire said. “We want to see these cadets graduate and commission, but they must meet the military requirements necessary for a ready force.”