The US Army wants to re-enlist soldiers who were discharged for refusing COVID-19 vaccines as the service grapples with increasing recruitment challenges.
According to a report by Task & Purpose, around 1,900 anti-vaccine soldiers were sent letters with instructions on how to rejoin the force.
It also instructed potential returnees to contact a military recruiter and correct their records through the Army Discharge Review Board or the Army Board for Correction of Military Records.
“As a result of the rescission of all current COVID-19 vaccination requirements, former soldiers who were involuntarily separated for their refusal to receive the COVID-19 vaccination may request a correction of their military records,” the letter stated.
It is still unclear whether returning soldiers would be deployed in their former unit or assigned elsewhere.
Since the vaccine mandate was lifted in January 2023, only 43 out of 8,000 discharged soldiers have returned to service.
In the army, only 19 soldiers have rejoined.
Experts suggest that younger ones may have already found other career paths, resulting in decreased interest in being reinstated.
Older members may have also seen the removal as an accelerated retirement, according to a CNN report.
“Some people were already on their way out of the military, and they didn’t want to get the vaccine and they just didn’t care,” Center for a New American Security director Kate Kuzminski said. “I think that may account for a significant portion of the individuals represented in the data.”
Last month, the US Army announced that it missed its recruitment goal this year by about 10,000 soldiers out of the recruitment target of 65,000.
The service also had a similar situation last year when it only recruited 45,000 new servicemen out of the 60,000 it initially targeted.
The shortfall was attributed to factors ranging from lack of interest among Gen Z members to a tight job market.
Because of its recruitment woes, the US Army said it was launching a sweeping overhaul, which includes creating a workforce dedicated only to recruitment.
It also said that it will focus more on young people who have already spent time in college rather than recent high school graduates to cope with the rapidly-changing labor market.