Army National Guard soldiers are reportedly leaving at a faster rate than they are enlisting for service. According to officials, over 7,500 have retired or left the Guard this past fiscal year. Maj. Gen. Rich Baldwin, chief of staff of the Army National Guard, told The Associated Press that current challenges to staffing are the worst he’s seen in the two decades.
Regarding the military’s recruiting woes, Corporal Rolando Martin, a national guardsman who has served in the Army for over 17 years, said while that many have focused on active-duty personnel, the National Guard is also suffering. He currently serves with the Florida National Guard, and emphasized that his views do not reflect the views of the Department of Defense (DoD) or the Department of the Army.
“Even though Governor DeSantis is in charge, [the Florida National Guard] is financed by the federal government, so they still have to follow everything the active duty does,” Martin told The Epoch Times. And as a result, he said, he has no doubt that recruiting and retention shortfalls will continue to occur not only within active-duty service, but in the Army Reserves and National Guard as well.
In June, Martin was informed that he would be discharged from the Army for having not taken the COVID-19 vaccine. Like thousands of others to date, his request for religious exemption did not get approved.
“I volunteered for an assignment to help out at the southern border earlier this year,” he said. Since he has experience in counter-drug operations, he thought he would be a good fit. “However, as soon as I submitted my paperwork, my platoon sergeant said I wouldn’t be approved because I’m not vaccinated,” he said.
“I’m sitting on the sidelines for what?” he asked. “Not only have I missed out on opportunities like this and other opportunities for training, but I’ve also missed out on a promotion to sergeant because I’m unvaccinated,” Martin said. “And now, the constant push to take the vaccine gives me anxiety.”
“The Army National Guard plays a big role in the Army, because they augment the active-duty service members,” Martin said. “We fill in the gaps, whether it be for riots, hurricanes, or combat missions.”
He is aware of people not joining the military because they would have to get vaccinated for COVID-19, and it’s a risk they’re not willing to take. “On top of that, they’re hearing how people are being treated for not taking the vaccine,” he said, adding that “they’re being treated like second-class citizens.”
In addition, he said, “top leadership is horrible, and people are starting to notice that the system is failing.”
Martin said, “this is not the military I joined,” adding that “the culture of the military is changing rapidly.” And he is saddened by it. “It’s very unfortunate that we’re going to lose all these people due to the ridiculousness of a vaccine that everybody knows does nothing, yet the DoD keeps pushing it,” he said.
Mandate Impacting on Recruitment
Like Martin, Fredis Kindelan also rejects the vaccine for reasons related to its efficacy and legality. Having served as a warrant officer for 15 years, Kindelan resigned from the Army in May.
“I couldn’t in good faith follow the orders of leaders who would not stand up against an unlawful order,” he told The Epoch Times, explaining that “the shots that have been made available to the service member population is exclusively under the emergency use authorization (EUA).”
Kindelan, like other service members who contest the validity of the vaccine mandate, points to the language of Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s August 2021 directive and argues that it only applies to vaccines that have full approval from the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). He contends that service members have the right to refuse a product under EUA.
Between 2014 and 2017, Kindelan was a recruiter for the Army. At the time, he said, serving in the Army was “honorable and prestigious,” but today’s Army is “not what it used to be.” And this is reflected in recruiting shortfalls and retention rates, he said.
Recent recruits are leaving the Army after a shorter-than-desirable timeline, according to Kindelan. “After getting a firsthand view of the military’s quality of life, many are experiencing something no one had warned them about,” he said, adding that “from a recruiting standpoint, a recent initial entry training graduate is typically an effective asset to spread the message.”
Kindelan explained, “The United States Recruiting Command would like recruiters to articulate highlights to the service’s target audience, [as] the impact an individual within the same age group as the prospective young adult the DoD looks for can be invaluable.”
With the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and Austin’s subsequent August 2021 announcement of a military vaccine mandate, things started to change, Kindelan said.
“After exercising the right to refuse the EUA product, I and many others were discriminated against for expressing medical concerns with a product that hadn’t been clinically tested to FDA standards,” he said.
Now, he said, this story is having a big impact on recruiting and retention as “it’s being broadcast loudly within the communities [of potential recruits] that the DoD relies on to sustain personnel management.”
“The military is struggling to meet training quotas, recruiting numbers, and retention numbers,” Kindelan said. “Today, commanders have become so competitive with their fellow commanders that they are more than often drafting fraudulent unit statistics, so they can report to their superiors that they’ve met training obligations.”
He said, “Commanders and their senior leaders in the latter part of their service with 10 or more years in, are so committed to securing their next promotion and retirement pension that they’ve compromised overall readiness and the sustainment of the organization.
“This cultural behavior leaves little room to preserve a healthy future generation of quality freedom fighters.”
Kindelan concluded: “If the DoD’s goal of sustainment and readiness is to persevere, then more leaders need to stand up against the corrupt bureaucracy that has led our nation’s service member exodus.”
Neither the Department of Defense nor the Department of the Army returned requests for comment from The Epoch Times.