- West Point denied an unvaccinated cadet’s travel requests in January despite the vaccine mandate no longer being in force throughout the entire Department of Defense, an attorney for the cadet and the cadet’s father told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
- West Point relaxed enforcement of the travel ban in the fall semester of 2022, but doubled down in the spring of 2023, William Conklin, the cadet’s father, told the DCNF.
- “It seems very arbitrary, you know, mean spirited, capricious, if you will,” Conklin said.
The U.S. Military Academy at West Point has denied travel requests from an unvaccinated cadet after the Department of Defense complied with Congress’ December 2022 law overturning the military vaccine mandate, an attorney for the cadet and the cadet’s father told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Samuel Conklin is one of about five cadets at West Point whose movement remains restricted under a holdover Army policy issued before the Secretary of Defense formally ordered the military to nix the vaccine requirement, William Conklin, the cadet’s father, told the DCNF. Administrators have barred the cadet from attending the academy’s Aviation Club meetings at a location 10 miles from base, an activity he hopes will supplement his goal of commissioning into Army aviation, according to Conklin.
“They were locked on base. So it was a complete loss of the freedom that they had patiently worked through and — the cadets feel like — earned and were entirely justified for last semester,” Conklin told the DCNF. (RELATED: After Coast Guard Academy ‘Excommunicated’ Cadets For Refusing Vaccine, Pleas For Reinstatement Go Unanswered)
R. Davis Younts, who is representing Conklin to push back on West Point administrative actions, confirmed to the DCNF that West Point had denied the cadet’s travel requests.
West Point unofficially relaxed enforcement of the policy restricting official travel in the fall semester of 2022, Conklin said. His son and other unvaccinated cadets operated with relative freedom, so the recent denials for official travel came as a surprise to the cadets.
When Samuel Conklin approached the officer in charge of the flying club in January, he expected to be able to participate unhindered, the father said. However, two cadets failed to show up to COVID-19 testing for what they believed to be an already approved trip, prompting the school administration to crack down on the unvaccinated cadets’ freedom of movement, according to Conklin.
Participating in the flying club, while not critical to Samuel Conklin’s career, provides opportunities for the cadet to demonstrate to superior officers their qualifications, Conklin explained.
West Point has “created this adversarial environment, which seems only designed to force these cadets who have taken the stand on their legal and moral right to make a religious objection to this vaccine. And they have turned it into a weapon against them,” Conklin said.
A spokesperson for West Point confirmed to the DCNF that the travel policy remained in force.
“U.S. Army policy states unvaccinated service members are not eligible for official travel without prior approval from the Under Secretary of the Army. Until the policy is rescinded, West Point will continue to follow it,” the U.S. Military Academy Office of Public Affairs and Communications said.
The Army placed a pause on discharges in December that covered students at West Point while DOD worked out further guidance in compliance with Congress’ order.
However, guidance dated May 17, 2022, blocked soldiers awaiting religious or medical exemptions from completing permanent changes of station (PCS).
Then in June 2022, the army updated that policy in a fragmentary order (FRAGO) to ban all “official travel” without prior approval from the undersecretary of the Army, according to documents obtained by Fox News. “Official travel” includes “any travel on an order published by the government, including TDY, PCS, no cost PCS, low-cost PCS, and intra-post transfers.”
Temporary duty, or TDY, includes cadet travel, Younts explained to the DCNF.
The most recent available update to the Army’s COVID-19 policy, previously obtained by the DCNF and dated Dec. 29, includes instructions on requesting mission-essential approval for travel and a “sample decision memo requesting approval of travel for unvaccinated individuals.”
FRAGOs are labeled “controlled unclassified information” and restricted from access to the general public.
Class resumes! Yesterday was the first day of spring semester and the final first day for the Class of ’23. Best wishes to all for a successful year!#GoArmy #WestPoint #DutyHonorCountry@USArmy | @SecArmy | @ArmyChiefStaff | @GoArmy @DeanUsma | @GoArmyWestPoint | @ArmyNavyGame pic.twitter.com/fdR9aCtunT
— U.S. Military Academy at West Point (@WestPoint_USMA) January 11, 2023
Samuel Conklin submitted a request and subsequent appeal for a religious exemption to the vaccine, both of which were denied, his father told the DCNF. He attempted to submit a medical exemptions but the Army denied that as well.
William Conklin said West Point has offered “no justifications for their stealing opportunities” from the cadets.
“For them, it seems very arbitrary, you know, mean spirited, capricious, if you will,” he added.
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