DOD dropped its formal COVID-19 vaccine mandate Tuesday and gave commanders flexibility to position unvaccinated troops, including whether to deploy them, as AP reported. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced the change in a Tuesday memo.

The National Defense Authorization Act signed into law just before Christmas gave the Pentagon a month to end its requirement that all service members be vaccinated. The Pentagon opposed the congressional action to end its mandate but complied.

“The Department will continue to promote and encourage COVID-19 vaccination for all service members,” Austin wrote in the memo. “Vaccination enhances operational readiness and protects the force.”

The memo also gives general guidance on how commanders should work with those who have chosen not to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Air Force photo by Linda LaBonte Britt