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Missouri’s Fort Leonard Wood is beating the rest of the Army in COVID vaccinations

Dawn Arden
Fort Leonard Wood
Col. Aaron Pitney, General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital commander, receives the COVID-19 vaccination in January. All active-duty personnel in the Army are required to get the shot by Dec. 15.

All active-duty members of the Army must be vaccinated by mid-December, but leaders at Fort Leonard Wood say they are confident they will be in compliance before that deadline.

As of last week, the Department of Defense said, 72% of the Army's total force had been fully vaccinated. Col. Aaron Bohrer, chief of operations and director of training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri’s Ozarks, would not give a specific number of vaccinations at his post.

“We are actually above the Army in general, where they are at in terms of their percentages. I fully expect I’ll have status for either exemptions or everybody vaccinated by the Dec. 15 deadline,” Bohrer said.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin issued an order in August that requires all service members to get the vaccine.

“Mandatory vaccinations are familiar to all of our service members, and mission-critical inoculation is almost as old as the U.S. military itself,” Austin wrote in his memo outlining the order. “Our administration of safe, effective COVID-19 vaccines has produced admirable results to date.”

Soldiers who refuse to be vaccinated can seek religious or medical exemptions, which are issued by the Army. If they don’t receive an exemption and still turn down the shot, they will face disciplinary action.

Bohrer said soldiers not in compliance will be written up for not obeying an order. The final outcome could go all the way to a discharge from the service.

“But we’re not there yet. We’re not separating anybody. We are just capturing that they have refused to follow a lawful order and making sure that gets captured properly with that General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand,” Bohrer said.

Borer would not give a specific number but said fewer than 2% of the active-duty personnel at Fort Leonard Wood have turned down the vaccine, and most of those are in the process of seeking exemptions.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @JonathanAhl

Jonathan is the Rolla correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.

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