3 suicides suspected at Drum

WATERTOWN DAILY TIMES The sign on New York State Route 11 northbound, welcoming people to the main entrance to Fort Drum.

WASHINGTON — Fort Drum soldiers are expected to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 by Dec. 15 under a plan outlined by the U.S. Army on Tuesday requiring that all service members receive a vaccine.

The Army began implementing Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin’s order issued Aug. 24, following Department of Defense and White House guidance. Before then, vaccines were optional.

In an Army press statement, Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle, the Army’s Surgeon General, said it’s important to protect service members while case counts and deaths continue to increase because of the spread of the Delta variant.

“This is quite literally a matter of life and death for our Soldiers, their families and the communities in which we live,” he said.

Soldiers who refuse to be vaccinated could receive administrative or non-judicial punishment — to include relief of duties or discharge, according to the press statement.

They could request an exemption if they have a legitimate medical, religious or administrative reason.

Commanders, command sergeants major, first sergeants and officers in Command Select List positions who refuse to be vaccinated — and are not pending an exemption request — face suspension and relief if they refuse to comply.

Soldiers with previous COVID-19 infections are not automatically exempt from full vaccination and should consult their primary care managers, according to the press release.

Commanders also will ensure that military personnel follow local and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 guidelines.

“The health protection of our force is a top priority, and the Army will continue to ensure that military personnel have the most up-to-date information on appropriate safety measures to prevent potential spread of the virus,” according to the press release.

Reserve and National Guard units are expected to be fully vaccinated by June 30.

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