The U.S. Army is separating soldiers who refuse to get the Covid-19 vaccine from the service.
Army Secretary Christine Wormuth instructed commanders on Wednesday to initiate “involuntary administrative separation proceedings” against unvaccinated soldiers who do not have an approved or pending exemption request.
The discharge order applies to regular Army soldiers, reserve-component soldiers on active duty, and cadets.
“Army readiness depends on soldiers who are prepared to train, deploy, fight and win our nation’s wars,” Wormuth said in a statement. “Unvaccinated soldiers present risk to the force and jeopardize readiness.”
Service members discharged during these proceedings will not receive involuntary separation pay and may have to pay back incentive bonuses or other special compensation they may have received, according to the Army.
Since the Pentagon made the vaccine mandatory for all service members in August, a vast majority of the active-duty force have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, about 98 percent, according to Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III.
The Army said commanders have relieved six regular Army leaders, including two battalion commanders, and issued 3,073 general officer written reprimands to soldiers for refusing the vaccination order as of Jan. 26.
The Army’s discharge order is the latest from a U.S. military branch removing unvaccinated service members amid the pandemic. Other military branches, such as the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Navy, have already removed unvaccinated service members.
The Army’s efforts come on the same week that President Joe Biden encouraged Americans to get vaccinated following the deaths of more than 900,000 people who have been killed by the virus.
“Today, our nation marks another tragic milestone,” Biden said in a statement Friday night. “Each soul is irreplaceable.”
He also reminded Americans that the nation now has “more tools than ever before to save lives and fight this virus — with vaccines remaining our most important tool.”
“Vaccines and boosters have proven incredibly effective, and offer the highest level of protection,” the president said. “Two hundred and fifty million Americans have stepped up to protect themselves, their families, and their communities by getting at least one shot — and we have saved more than one million American lives as a result.”
Nicole Acevedo is a reporter for NBC News Digital. She reports, writes and produces stories for NBC Latino and NBCNews.com.