air force academy commencement

Air Force Academy cadets toss their hats into the air at the end of graduation in 2019.

The three Air Force Academy cadets who are refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine will receive their bachelor’s degrees but will not be commissioned into the Air Force as long as they remain unvaccinated, academy officials announced Saturday.

“A decision to reimburse the United States for education costs in lieu of service will be made by the Secretary of the Air Force,” the release sent by the academy reads.

Officials did not provide an answer as to whether the three cadets will be able to participate in Wednesday’s graduation ceremony at Falcon Stadium.

The cadets, known as “firsties,” for seniors, could be on the hook to repay the $200,000 or more for their tuition, depending on Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall’s decision.

According to The Associated Press, the Air Force Academy is the only service academy with cadets who will not be commissioned because of refusing the COVID-19 vaccine. More than 1,000 Army cadets graduated at West Point on Saturday and were commissioned. All of them were vaccinated.

Ten other Air Force Academy cadets who are not seniors also have refused the vaccine. A fourth senior has reversed course and took the vaccine, The Gazette reported Wednesday.

Lt. Col. Brian Maguire, director of public affairs at the academy, said the cadets — including the senior who eventually received the vaccine — applied for a religious exemption, and all were denied. Their appeals also were denied.

The Pentagon mandated the COVID-19 vaccine for all service members, including cadets and those in ROTC programs, in August.

Load comments