Short of full discharge, those refusing the mandate could be charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), based on prior Defense Department statements. Currently, some class action lawsuits are said to be underway among troops – including reservists – who argue the mandate violates their individual medical freedom and constitutional rights.
When it comes to the Air Force especially, there’s a risk of losing pilots and technicians – people in elite and highly skilled positions – who have undergone years of prior training at a government and taxpayer cost of millions of dollars. The Hill summarizes the dilemma facing military top brass as follows:
However, with such a significant amount of service members rejecting the vaccine mandate, officials are faced with a dilemma — take action against those who rejected the mandate and possibly face serious setbacks within units that should be ready for a crisis, or go back on a wide-scale requirement established in August by the top military leaders.
If military leaders back down, it could set a precedent allowing personnel to more readily push back against future mandates – for example, if a booster shot is ordered – something the Biden administration has signaled it may be prepared to do.