Like other branches of the nation’s military, the U.S. Coast Guard is facing recruiting challenges. In spite of this, the branch is letting go of experienced service members without due process over the vaccine mandate, holding little regard for sincerely held religious beliefs, according to an attorney and a retired Coast Guard officer.
The Coast Guard is attempting to separate members from service who refuse the vaccine under the process known as “convenience of the Government,” which does not require review by a military panel, said former Aviation Survival Technician Chief Petty Officer David Kroll, who decided to retire in April 2021 after more than 20 years as a helicopter rescue swimmer over his religious objection to the vaccine.
According to the Coast Guard instruction M1000.4 (pdf), “members separated for the convenience of the Government are not entitled to an administrative discharge board” unless otherwise indicated.
Air Force Reserve Judge Advocate General and civilian attorney, Lt. Col. R. Davis Younts, who represents multiple military clients in a private capacity as a civilian attorney, told The Epoch Times that Kroll is “absolutely correct.”
The attorney explained that “service members of other branches [of the military] are granted an administrative separation board, if they have six years of service.” Cases are presented to three senior officers with an attorney present, he said.
“However, the Coast Guard is using the provision of the Coast Guard instructions that allows them to circumvent that process and kick people out without a board even if they have 18 or 19 years in,” Younts said.
“Unless a federal court intervenes with an injunction, the Coast Guard is the worst offender as far as what’s happening to their members,” the attorney added, referring to preliminary injunctions issued by federal judges directing the Air Force, Marines, and Navy to cease taking any actions against service members who have filed religious accommodation requests to the vaccine mandate.
Section 1.B.12.a. of the instruction lists the reasons for discharging someone from the Coast Guard for the convenience of the Government. These include a service member’s inability to perform prescribed duties, the separation of conscientious objectors, unsatisfactory performance, and national health, safety, or interest.
The broadness of this provision thereby allows the Coast Guard to put the military’s vaccine mandate under the reason of “national health, safety, or interest,” Kroll noted.
But according to him, “the truth is—it is not convenient at all, as we are in the midst of a major workforce shortage.”
Kroll pointed to a message (pdf) by Commandant of the Coast Guard Adm. Karl Schultz sent in May that read: “We are in the midst of a workforce shortage not seen in generations, and this shortage threatens our Service’s readiness.”
Despite the workforce shortage, the Coast Guard is continuing to process members for discharge for refusing to take the vaccine. “These are highly qualified, trained personnel, including pilots, flight mechanics, rescue swimmers, surf men, cutter men, and vital support personnel,” Kroll said. “It’s affecting every rank and rate across all branches of service.”
He added, “It’s not convenient for the taxpayer because hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars have been invested in these people.”
A Coast Guard media relations official told the Epoch Times that as of Sept. 21, the Coast Guard has approved 12 religious accommodations, and denied 1,231 requests.
Kroll said, “It appears everyone received blanket denials that read almost verbatim regardless of the member’s rank, position, or religious beliefs.”
“They’re willing to discharge members with sincerely held religious beliefs over an ineffective, experimental vaccine for a virus with a 99.98 percent survivability rate—and that just doesn’t make sense because it’s foolish.”
According to Kroll, for years, Crew Resource Management (CRM) has been “pounded into the heads” of all Coast Guard personnel. “CRM is the concept that regardless of your rank, experience, or position, you are not only encouraged to, but have a responsibility to speak up if you see, hear, or smell anything that seems off,” he said.
“Now you have several members using the tools and training that they’ve been given to say, ‘hey something is not right about the vaccine,’” Kroll said. “And these are the very people that our military leadership wants to kick out when in fact these are the people that we need to retain because they are the ones that are bold enough to speak up and bold enough to hold the line amidst great personal loss.”
While Coast Guard separations are affecting everyone, Kroll said Helicopter Rescue Swimmers are currently at an 89 percent capacity, citing inside sources. Anything below 95 percent is considered “critical,” he noted.
“I personally know at least 20 hardline rescue swimmers that will not submit to this unlawful order under any circumstance, and if they’re discharged, that number will drop to 83 or 84 percent capacity.” The Epoch Times has reached out to the Coast Guard to seek comment about these claims.
Kroll is concerned about how the void will be filled. “One of my biggest concerns is that there will be tremendous pressure to lower the standards in an effort to course correct the mistake that the military is making,” he said. “And that will do more harm than good.”
The Coast Guard’s Rescue Swimmer School has always been under tremendous scrutiny because of its high attrition rate, roughly 80 percent, according to Kroll. “The curriculum is designed by experienced rescue swimmers to prepare prospective candidates for worst-case scenarios, to ensure they have the skills and confidence necessary to make sound decisions under pressure and fatigue, execute the mission, and get home to their families,” he said.
“Any attempt to water down the curriculum in an effort to fill the void that’s been deepened by poor Coast Guard leadership is a critical error,” Kroll said.
“I believe it will place tremendous pressure on the instructors at both the Schoolhouse and local Air Stations to push candidates through before they’re ready and that could be catastrophic in a rescue scenario.”