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Exemption Denied

Posted Feb 01, 2022 by Ray Patrick

I got a nice letter at work today. As of 1 February 2022, the commander, Space Training & Readiness Command, on the recommendation of the legal office, has denied my request for a religious exemption waiver.1 I now have five calendar days to do one of the following:

  1. Begin2 a COVID-19 vaccine series,
  2. Separate or retire (if eligible), or
  3. Appeal the decision to the Department of the Air Force Religious Resolution Team (DAF/RRT).

Naturally I will choose the third option on general principle. However, as long as the odds were that my exemption would be approved at this level, it’s even less likely that DAF as a whole will do so. Still, it’s the consistent thing to do. In the meantime, I need to seriously soul-search and figure out if staying in until retirement is worth submitting to this vaccine.

Things That Make You Go “Hmmm”

The letter raised a few points that I found to be particularly interesting, summarized below:

“We Can’t Afford to Lose You – So Do This or You’re Fired”

The letter says that I’m a “high-value, low-density asset,” which is Air Force corporate-speak for “your specialty is in-demand and your career field is under-manned.” You’d think that would give me the power in this negotiation - and it probably would if I were a civilian employee anywhere else - but it doesn’t. Instead, they double down on the cognitive dissonance and simultaneously assert that:

  1. You are a vital part of this organization and your skills are in demand.
  2. We are prepared to kick you out in less than a week if you don’t do this.

This Super Deadly Pandemic is Super Deadly, Guys

The letter points out that, apparently, 84 DoD personnel have died of (with?) COVID since the beginning of the pandemic. So it’s taken nearly 3 years for COVID to kill as many servicemembers as we currently lose to suicide every 4 days or so. I’m glad to see that we’re focusing fire where the threat is greatest.

Additionally, I was surprised to learn from this letter that vaccinated people in every age group have a lower percentage of COVID deaths than the unvaccinated! This was undoubtedly a super-rigorous study and was in no way cobbled together from CNN or MSNBC reporting. After all, the few dozen of us unvaccinated active duty personnel comprise a huge sample size. Also, we’re all much more dead than the vaccinated guys.

If We Approve This, People’s Feelings Will Be Hurt

One of the most risible claims in this letter is that “approval of some exemption waivers but not others could cause favoritism concerns.” This is just the kind of airtight inductive reasoning you love to see from your legal office. Note that they actually managed to cleverly nest two hypothetical situations together (approving any DAF exemption request, a total fantasy at the time of this writing, and the possibility that somebody, somewhere, might be offended if it were approved.)

Way Forward

My short-term plan is a no-brainer: appeal to DAF. But what then? Even the most inveterate gambler would likely think twice before betting on those odds. I need to seriously decide once and for all whether staying in is worth it. I love what I do, I’m excited to shape the future of a new service, and see where it goes. I’d love to be good enough to command a squadron some day. Maybe it’s worth it to stay in and fight the culture shift? What hope is there for what I believe in if everyone who thinks like me gets forced out?
To be continued

  1. Curiously, my squadron commander and his commander both approved it. This letter actually says that the unit commander “erred.”
  2. Nobody knows if the series will ever end, of course. As with other super-effective vaccines, you have to boost them constantly. Just like you have to get re-vaccinated for polio twice per year.
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Topics: covid politics