Pentagon chief tests positive for COVID-19 – US military may face weakened combat capability amid controversy over vaccine mandate
Photo of Lloyd Austin: AFP
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin confirmed on Sunday that he tested positive for COVID-19. He was fully vaccinated and received a booster in early October 2021.
On the one hand, this breaking news shows that the coronavirus respects no borders and no people and has a high infectivity. However, Austin is a senior officer in the United States Army, whose infection reflects a lack of self-protection awareness in the face of COVID-19. On the flip side, it shows that a big problem within the US military is the consistently severe infection rate among the troops. This clearly shows the general disorganization and indiscipline within the US military.
A striking example is the one-day record of 235 COVID-19 cases among US forces in Okinawa Prefecture in Japan, confirmed on Saturday. The flaw for such cluster infections lies in the US military’s exemption from the requirement for soldiers to undergo a COVID-19 test before being sent to Okinawa, under the pretext that the soldiers had already been vaccinated. The United States’ disregard for Japan’s COVID-19 prevention requirements has resulted in the importation of infections into the Asian country.
According to the latest US Department of Defense data updated on December 22, 2021, cumulative COVID-19 DOD totals have exceeded 406,000 cases, with more than 261,000 cases in the military sector where 82 have died from the virus. . Overall it can be seen that the US military is not good at preventing and controlling COVID-19 at all levels of its organization – and therefore the current epidemic situation on US soil is an inevitable result.
Why have so many American forces been infected? One reason is the above-mentioned lack of discipline and failure to adhere to relevant prevention requirements, especially among US military personnel deployed overseas. In addition, many active-duty military personnel would rather be released than receive a vaccine.
According to media reports, in mid-December 2021, the US Air Force fired 27 people for refusing to be vaccinated against COVID-19. This suggests a deep-rooted “liberal mindset” within the United States military, which has led to an increase in cross-infection among the military, although the DOD has demanded that all service members, including civilians, receive beatings. of fire.
Repeated infections within the US military will affect the US global deployment in two ways. First, it will weaken the combat and support capabilities of stationed troops. The refusal of soldiers to be vaccinated will further increase the risk of infections in larger clusters. In addition, the credibility of the US military will be undermined in the countries where it is stationing troops, as they have caused disasters not limited to COVID-19 infections for the local population. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida recently protested and expressed his anger at US military personnel for not performing any coronavirus tests before coming to Japan. Protests by the Japanese people against US troops have also not been uncommon in recent years.
Although the DOD said on December 21 that approximately 98% of active-duty forces have received COVID-19 vaccines, the public is not clear on the exact status of vaccination within the military. However, we can see frequent cases on their warships and at their bases both at home and abroad that their ability to fight the virus is still relatively low.
Getting vaccinated doesn’t mean infection will never happen, especially in the face of newer variants of the coronavirus and the spread among those who still refuse to be vaccinated. The fact that a large number of American soldiers are infected reflects that the apparently high vaccination rate of the United States military has limited practical effects.
When it comes to the response to COVID-19, particularly whether to vaccinate or not, Americans, including military personnel, have different attitudes. Some people still believe that the virus does not matter. Some even think that vaccines are bad and bad for your health. These people will not change their beliefs just because they are soldiers. This is why many people prefer to quit the military instead of obeying the vaccination mandate. Perhaps such a situation – a large number of soldiers who would rather leave the service than follow orders and get vaccinated – could only happen in a country like the United States.
When American soldiers take the oath of enlistment, they say, “I will obey the orders of the President of the United States.” But right now, many of them are clearly breaking that oath. This is a unique feature of the United States.
The US military now faces many challenges. The disagreement over whether to vaccinate will cause a brain drain in the US military: some who do not agree to be vaccinated are very experienced veterans. If they leave, the combat capability of the US military will surely suffer a big loss.
The author is a Chinese military expert and a television commentator. [email protected]