412th TW commander voices support for DOD’s total force vaccination requirements

Brig. Gen. Matthew W. Higer, commander of the 412th Test Wing at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., voiced his support Oct. 14, 2021, for directives requiring all DOD employees — active duty members, reservists, civilians, and contract workers — to be fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus.

A memorandum from the Secretary of Defense dated Aug. 24 and two executive orders from the president of the United States signed Sept. 9, require that all DOD workers be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Nov. 2 for active duty service members, by Nov. 22 for civilian employees and by Dec. 8 for contract workers.

Higer cited protection of the force as a key reason for workers to receive the vaccinations in an e-mail to the work force sent out this morning.

“To say I deeply care about each and every one of you is a significant understatement.

“We are living, loving, working, and succeeding in uncharted historical waters,” he said, referring to the time before the COVID-19 virus.

“We are never going back. As I write this the CDC is reporting 716,370 U.S. fatalities attributed to [the virus]. We are building a new normal without all these people. [The virus] is now permanently with humanity for all future time; it is endemic,” he said.

Higer also identified four combat fronts in which the wing workforce is directly and continuously engaged:

– Generate and deploy ready Airmen today so they can engage in missions for combatant commanders tonight;

– Remain exceptional defensive warriors in the cyber domain 24/7-365 on all devices — government and personal — in all locations on and off duty;

– Protect against the coronavirus and its associated risk to mission and people; and

– At a speed-with-discipline pace, deliberately build and sharpen the future military arsenal of the United States, her allies, and partners.

He said the best way to reduce that third combat risk for everyone is to incorporate the best known practices, which are continually updated as more is learned about how to best mitigate the virus.

These mitigations efforts include non-pharmaceutical interventions like those outlined in the acronym SMARTS, which can be found in the coronavirus section of the base website at: https://www.edwards.af.mil/coronavirus/.

SMARTS stands for:

Space — Physical separation is required for everyone in all locations.

Mask — Masks are required to be worn on the installation.

Air — Limit gatherings as much as possible to outdoor or outdoor-like venues to maximize airflow.

Restrict — Facility owners are directed to institute appropriate Health Protection Condition Bravo capacity limits in consultation with Public Health.

Time — Minimize in-person contact time, including outdoors.

Shots — All DOD employees are required to be immunized against the COVID-19 virus.

Higer emphasized the importance of immunizations.

“Our best and only real weapons that offensively attack [the virus] are the vaccines,” he said.

The wing commander also addressed those who have reservations about complying with the mandate.

“If you are struggling with how to comply with the vaccine mandate, your leadership team and all the helping agencies including employee relations experts remain committed to finding a best solution,” he said.

That solution will be informed by guidance that is yet to be released and will certainly be updated as the work force moves into these uncharted waters, he said.

“Please engage with your leadership constructively as we get to the next destination in this new normal together,” he said.

Higer included with his email, an additional email from Lt. Gen. Carl E. Schaefer, deputy commander, Air Force Materiel Command that outlined the timetable for DOD employees to become fully vaccinated.

Active Duty military members must be fully vaccinated by Nov. 2. Air Reserve Component and Air National Guard members have until Dec. 2.

DOD civilian employees must be fully vaccinated by Nov. 22, subject to exemptions as required by law. Employees are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after completing the second dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine or two weeks after receiving a single dose of a one-dose COVID-19 vaccine. The following deadlines are provided in order to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 22.

– Oct. 11 was the deadline to receive the first dose of the Moderna vaccine.

– Oct. 18 is the deadline to receive the Comirnaty/Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

– Nov. 8 is the deadline to receive the second dose for the Moderna and Comirnaty/Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines.

– Nov. 8 is also the deadline to receive the first and only dose of the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine.

– Dec. 8 is the deadline by which covered contractors must be fully vaccinated. Compliance for contractor employees is the responsibility of the respective contractor. Contractor employees should check with their employer on the requirement to be vaccinated.

As a reminder, the Edwards AFB website has a frequently asked questions section on COVID-19 vaccination. Those who have a question that is not addressed in these FAQs should reach out to the Edwards medical team, a supervisor or the Crisis Action Team via their unit or group control centers. Boyington and his first wife, Helen, divorced when he was deployed to China. He married three more times, finally settling down with Josephine Wilson in 1975, according to a 1992 article in The Fresno Bee.

On Jan. 11, 1988, a 75-year-old Boyington died of cancer at a hospice in Fresno, Calif. He was interred in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.

Boyington’s aviation exploits were the stuff of legend. In the last few decades of his life, he wrote an autobiography titled “Baa Baa Black Sheep.” It became a national best-seller and was turned into a TV show in the 1970s called “Black Sheep Squadron.”

In 1994, the Marine commander was enshrined in the Naval Aviation Hall of Honor at the National Museum of Naval Aviation. The airport in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, Boyington’s hometown, was renamed the Pappy Boyington Field in 2007.

Boyington’s wife donated his Medal of Honor to the Marines Memorial Association’s Marines Memorial Club in San Francisco, where it remains on display in the club’s restaurant.

More Stories