(Daily Caller News Foundation) — Marine Corps recruiters are sending out texts to former members who left active or reserve duty over the COVID-19 vaccine mandate asking if they would like to rejoin now that the secretary of defense has overturned the mandate, screenshots of the texts obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation show.
Corps recruiters reached out to Individual Ready Reserve Marines — “men and women who had left the active or reserve forces” — alerting them that the COVID-19 vaccine mandate has officially been repealed, a Marine Corps Recruiting Command spokesperson confirmed. The recruiters then asked if the members would like to discuss options for returning to service if they were among the thousands discharged for refusing to take the required vaccine against COVID-19, multiple screenshots of the messages obtained by the DCNF show.
“You think that after getting belittled for over a year by commands, the amount of paperwork I had to do to get an honorable [discharge], and still getting forced out the second they take that requirement away I’m running back?” one of the former members responded to a prior service recruiter (PSR), the screenshot shows.
“They could implement [the mandate] again tomorrow, there are no future protections for anyone,” the member continued.
The Corps discharged 3,717 Marines for refusing to take the vaccine as of the latest update on Dec. 5, with close to the same number of exemption requests pending approval. No data was available regarding the number of members who transferred to the IRR for reasons related to the vaccine mandate.
The Department of Defense formally rescinded the COVID-19 vaccine mandate on Jan. 10, and the Corps issued updated guidance on Jan. 18 rolling out the mandate repeal according to DOD’s directive.
“I am reaching out to officially spread the word that [sic] the Marine Corps has officially repealed the vaccine mandate. If you happened to be one of the Marines that left due to this change in policy, now is the time to come back,” a gunnery sergeant, whose responsibilities include advising a commanding officer on employment and training, said in a text to a second former member.
A third message let a member know that the vaccine mandate was lifted with Maradmin 025/23, the official record repealing the mandate for the Marine Corps.
“We look forward to helping you get back on the Marine Team!” the PSR said, the screenshot shows.
“No direct authorization was given for these messages,” Jim Edwards, deputy director of communications at Marine Corps Recruiting Command, told the DCNF. “It was individual Marines taking initiative to share information that former Marines may not have been aware of.”
He did not have specific data on the number of text messages sent to former members.
“Prior Service Marine Recruiters reach out to Marines who have departed the service to provide opportunities for future service each and every day. Our Prior Service Recruiters are doing well and are on track to meet their annual mission,” Edwards added.
One message appeared to be copied in texts to at least two different recipients, as time stamps show the same message sent at different times.
Many conservative lawmakers and advocates argued the vaccine mandate contributed to the military’s struggle to meet its recruiting goals for fiscal year 2022, which ended on Sept. 30. Even as President Joe Biden signed a bill into law overturning the mandate, the Pentagon maintained that the mandate was necessary to stave off spread of the virus and preserve readiness.
The Marine Corps’ top general gave credence to the argument that the vaccine mandate has hurt recruiting in remarks at the Reagan National Defense Forum in December. “Where it is having an impact for sure is on recruiting, where in parts of the country there’s still myths and misbeliefs about the back story behind it,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger said.
The Corps met 100% of its recruiting goal for 2022 despite facing an unusually challenging recruiting environment, officials said, according to Marine Corps Times.
“The Marine Corps continues to promote and encourage COVID-19 vaccination for all Marines,” Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Ryan Bruce told the DCNF. Former members wishing to return would follow standard accession procedures, he said.