An Army officer may have nuked his career with a single tweet
'The command is looking into it and will take appropriate action as required.'
The Army is looking into whether Lt. Col. James A. Attaway III, a professor of military studies at Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas, tweeted in opposition to the Army’s requirement that soldiers be vaccinated against COVID-19, a spokeswoman for Army Cadet Command said.
“Cadet Command is aware of the tweet attributed to one of our professors of military science that disagreed with the Department of the Army’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate and tagged the Sergeant Major of the Army,” Lt. Col. Nichole Downs said on Monday. “The command is looking into it and will take appropriate action as required.”
On Saturday, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston, shared a story about the Army starting to separate soldiers for refusing to get vaccinated on Twitter and he urged both leaders and enlisted soldiers to read the Army’s policy about mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations.
Then a tweet from Attaway’s now deleted account replied with: “The vaccine doesn’t stop you from getting or transmitted [sic.] Covid, but we’re mandating that the most healthy population on the planet get vaccinated or be discharged? It’s time to resign …”
Grinston responded to the message by tweeting: “Thanks for your reply. I’m sure @CG_ArmyROTC [Maj. Gen. Johnny K. Davis, head of the Army’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps] received your feedback as well?”
No further information was immediately available about what actions Army Cadet Command is taking. But for observers of the military, the reply seemed to suggest an active-duty Army officer had nuked his career with a single tweet.
Attaway enlisted in the Army in 1998 and was later commissioned as a lieutenant through Stephen F. Austin State University’s ROTC program, according to his official biography. He has deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, Korea, and Kosovo and served with a number of units including the 101st Airborne Division and 7th Special Forces Group. He has graduated from Ranger School, Air Assault School, and the Command and General Staff College.
When reached by Task & Purpose on Monday, Attaway deferred comment to his attorney, Army Capt. Matthew Bishop.
Bishop would not confirm or deny that Attaway wrote the tweet to Grinston.
“Ever since that tweet, [Lt.] Col. Attaway has been put under a lot of pressure from higher levels of command,” Bishop said. “It’s still kind of ongoing. We don’t know what type of potential action they are going to take against him, if any. So, I don’t want to go in too much detail about the in and of itself, but I will tell you it seems like there is a lot of almost undue pressure against [Lt.] Col. Attaway.”
Even though the Defense Department made COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for all U.S. troops in August, a vocal opposition against the vaccine has permeated the ranks of the military. Army Reserve Lt. Col. Paul Hague wrote in his resignation letter that his wife posted on Twitter that the vaccine mandate was part of a “Marxist takeover of the military.”
Protests from officers and enlisted soldiers about being required to get vaccinated have fallen on deaf ears. So far, the Army has received 3,170 requests from soldiers asking for a permanent religious exemption from taking the vaccine, but none have been granted, an Army news release says. The Army has also received 744 requests for permanent medical exemptions, of which only six have been approved and 678 have been denied.
On Feb. 2, the Army announced that it would begin separating the 3,394 soldiers who had refused the vaccine and did not have an approved exemption. Six leaders have been relieved of command for refusing the vaccine order, including two battalion commanders.
Separately, Army 1st Lt. Mark Bashaw, who is assigned to the U.S. Army Public Health Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, is the first service member to be referred to a court-martial for allegedly flouting COVID-19 protocols.
“The charge is not for refusing the order to receive the COVID-19 vaccine but is related to COVID-19 infection mitigation measures designed to protect the force,” said Becca Nappi, a spokeswoman for Aberdeen Proving Ground.
Bashaw has been charged with three specifications of failure to obey lawful orders for allegedly showing up at Aberdeen Proving Ground without testing negative for COVID-19 beforehand, staying at work even though he had not showed that he had tested negative for the disease, and refusing to wear a mask while indoors, Nappi said.
Since Bashaw is a commissioned officer and he is facing a special court-martial convened by a military judge alone, he cannot be confined to prison, reduced in rank, or dismissed from the Army if he is found guilty, said Phillip Stackhouse, a civilian attorney who often represents service members. Instead, Bashaw could receive a reprimand, a fine, and forfeit part of his pay for up to six months.
“Army readiness depends on Soldiers who are prepared to train, deploy, fight and win our nation’s wars,” Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said in a Feb. 2 news release. “Unvaccinated soldiers present risk to the force and jeopardize readiness. We will begin involuntary separation proceedings for soldiers who refuse the vaccine order and are not pending a final decision on an exemption.”
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