Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt on Wednesday replaced the leader of the Oklahoma Army and Air National Guard. Stitt named Brig. Gen. Thomas Mancino, a 35-year veteran of the National Guard as the new adjutant general.
According to a Thursday memo obtained by The Oklahoman, Adjutant Gen. Thomas Mancino is removing the vaccine mandate for the Oklahoma National Guard, and that “No negative administrative or legal action will be taken” against guard members who refuse the COVID-19 vaccine.
Stitt sent a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Nov. 2 requesting the suspension of COVID-19 vaccine mandates for members of the Oklahoma National Guard. The move caused friction between the governor and Former Adjuent General Michael Thompson, the Tulsa World reported.
“This mandate violates the personal freedoms of many Oklahomans, as it asks them to potentially sacrifice their personal beliefs in order to not lose their jobs,” Governor Stitt wrote.
“The clarified policy on COVID vaccinations for Oklahoma Army and Air National Guardsmen reflects the governor’s ability to assert his command authority over the men and women of the Oklahoma National Guard while they are within the state’s borders,” Lt. Col. Geoff Legler told the outlet.
Stitt’s office has denied Thompson was replaced due to his opinion on vaccine mandates and said the change in command was in the works since October, The Oklahoman reported.
Stitt spokesman Charlie Hannema said the governor called Thompson on Wednesday to inform him that he was being relieved of his command. That call occurred before the governor’s office put out a news release naming Mancino as the National Guard’s new leader, he said.
Replacing Thompson had been in the works for months, Hannema said. When the governor’s office announced the change in command Wednesday, there was no reason given for the shake-up.
In October, Thompson submitted his resignation, saying he planned to step down in mid-January, Hannema said. After the governor decided he wanted to promote Mancino, it didn’t seem necessary to keep Thompson on until the new year, he said.