STARRS Turns Up Heat, Secures Small Win

Superintendent Says He’ll Let Cadets Have Degree!

By Tracey Meck, Col, USAF (Ret), STARRS Newsletter and Blog Editor-in-Chief, USAFA ‘87

Update 21 May: Attorney, Mike Rose, has received word from two of the cadets that they have been informed they will not be allowed to participate in the graduation ceremony on Wed, 25 May, due to their unvaccinated status even though they are not sick and have been participating in normal cadet activities all along.

Original blog: After a protest outside an academy gate, several published articles and interviews (including on Fox News), and a letter from Congressman Doug Lamborn, CO 5th Dist; the USAFA Superintendent, Lt Gen Rich Clarke, told the cadets that he will allow them to graduate with the degrees they earned. However, he is still refusing to grant them religious exemptions, so they will not be commissioned or allowed to serve in the military.  They will also have to reimburse the Air Force for their education.

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Four Air Force Academy Senior Cadets Told They Will Not Graduate Two Weeks Before Big Day!

On May 10th, four Cadets First Class (seniors) were ordered to report to the superintendent’s office under the escort of their Air Officer Commanding (AOC) to discuss the status of their requests for religious exemption from taking a COVID vaccine. Representatives from the Judge Advocate and Surgeon General offices were present. The cadets’ Air Force assigned defense attorney attended via teleconference.

For background, appeals the cadets (and 12 other cadets from lower classes) submitted after being denied religious exemptions had been formally denied on March 28th and they had been given five days to start the vaccine process or start the disciplinary and dismissal process. However, their lawyers secured additional time for them to submit medical exemptions and explore other options based on on-going court cases involving other service members in similar situations.

At the meeting, Lt Gen Clark strictly and candidly informed the cadets they had until August 2nd to decide whether or not to take the vaccine before the formal disciplinary process would begin, including the following actions:

– They would not be allowed to graduate (not awarded an academic degree)
– They would not be commissioned
– The superintendent would recommend they be required to pay $160-200K for their academy education (recoupment)
– They would be issued a letter of reprimand to document their refusal to take the vaccine as supporting documentation for discharge and recoupment actions
– They would not receive pay between now and the August 2nd deadline
– They would not be allowed to get a job unless approved by the academy

They were further informed that even if they started the vaccine process right away, they would not be allowed to participate in graduation activities. Rather they could not graduate until they completed the full vaccine regiment.

One cadet asked why they were being punished for their strongly held religious beliefs and exercising their first amendment rights.

Lt Gen Clark replied that they were not being punished. Rather, their religious beliefs were not compatible with the Air Force’s mission, including keeping the force safe and ready, and upholding good morale and discipline.

Similar actions were taken against a senior midshipman from the Merchant Marine Academy who refused to take the vaccine after his exemption appeal was denied. He was recently discharged without an academic degree. He is now working with another school to transfer his credits in hopes they will award the degree.

Sixteen West Point cadets and a Naval Academy midshipman trying to commission into the Space Force  are all in a similar position. 

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STARRS Turns Up Heat, Secures Small Win

Superintendent Says He’ll Let Cadets Have Degree!

By Tracey Meck, Col, USAF (Ret), STARRS Newsletter and Blog Editor-in-Chief, USAFA ‘87

Over the past week or so, STARRS turned up the heat on the USAF Academy (USAFA), Air Force and DoD leadership to do the right thing for four senior cadets who were told that not only will they not receive commissions, nor be allowed to serve their country, but they will not even graduate (i.e. not receive a degree even though they have finished the academic course work).  Additionally,  the superintendent stated he would recommend they repay the Air Force approximately $165,000 (some sources assess it could go as high as $200K) for their academic instruction.

Fox News picked up the story and published an article on 13 May.  In Colorado Springs, The Gazette reported on the situation on 14 May, and The Washington Times got onboard on 18 May.  The Daily Mail from the United Kingdom even picked up the story.

Mike Rose, STARRS General Counsel, is providing legal counsel to the cadets and is working on a federal lawsuit on behalf of all unvaccinated AF cadets and 16 from West Point (some from each class).  The existence of the lawsuit and the points being argued were made widely known, including in an interview with USAFA graduate Chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt (Chaps) on a May 5th Pray In Jesus Name newscast.

STARRS President, Lt Gen Rod Bishop (USAF Ret) and Chaps led a peaceful protest outside the academy gates on Saturday, 14 May.  They were joined by other STARRS staff and supporters, as well as cadet family members. 

Informational emails were sent to the leadership of numerous like-minded groups, AF and DoD leaders, and members of congress.  Gen Bishop was interviewed on Steve Bannon’s War Room and Real America’s Voice’s War Room Pandemic (Part 1 and Part 2).

Mike Rose and a cadet appeared on Fox and Friends on 18 May.  During this discussion it was revealed that one of the other cadets had decided to get the vaccine because he is a cancer survivor and, if discharged, he would not have insurance to cover his on-going care.  The problem here is the potential adverse affects of the vaccine could lead to a re-emergence of the cancer due to the vaccine’s documented negative impacts on the immune system.  The cadet’s doctors strongly advised him NOT to get the vaccine because of the risk, but he felt he had no choice.  CD Media also reported on this new development.

On 19 May, STARRS was informed that one of the cadets had submitted a resignation request; leaving two cadets in limbo.

Based on the information he received, Congressman Doug Lamborn, CO 5th,  sent a letter to the USAFA Superintendent regarding the situation on 17 May.  A few hours later, the superintendent announced the senior cadets would graduate with the Bachelor’s degree they had earned.  Congressman Lamborn’s office told STARRS that “many other members of congress are at a breaking point about how the vaccine exemption issue has been handled.”  They will be introducing legislation addressing it soon and plan to fight it through the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) process.

The legal fight will continue with the goal of securing commissions for the graduates and vaccine mandate exemptions for all cadets and midshipmen still in legal and professional limbo.  To this end, STARRS secured the help of the law firm that won the case against mandatory anthrax vaccinations.  Several lawyers are working pro-bono, but there are still legal costs involved with filing motions and taking other actions to navigate through the legal process. 

If you would like to help cover these legal costs, please go to STARRS.US and click Donate, then click “Litigation Support.”

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*This article states the views of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of STARRS.

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