A viral Twitter rant that surfaced last week — one unsurprisingly filmed from the driver’s side — started off with a suggestion that the secretary of defense sent a text about the COVID-19 vaccine mandate to all active-duty personnel of the U.S. Armed Forces.
The unidentified man claimed Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin sent the DoD-wide text ordering all active-duty service members to be vaccinated by 10 a.m. on Friday or face court-martial.
That, however, is not possible, according to the Defense Department.
“There’s no way a mass text could be sent, because there’s no repository of everyone’s cell phones,” Maj. Charlie Dietz, a press officer with the Office of the Secretary of Defense, told Military Times.
“Providing cell phone numbers is optional, and the closest we could ever get might be [a mass text] at a company level.”
Dietz also confirmed that mass texts are not the way the Defense Department would ever convey important information like a vaccine mandate or pending courts-martial. Even if the defense secretary wanted to group text the entire military, he doesn’t have the technology.
Referencing the CEO of Apple, Dietz noted, “Tim Cook might be able to do it, but we lack the ability at this time.”
The anonymous poster went on to suggest that the text in question forced a dozen F-22 pilots and 16 B-52 crew members in the Air Force to quit.
“A dozen of the best pilots in the world — thousands of hours of training, millions of dollars of training, off the job,” he said, adding, “16 crew members for B-52 bombers walked off the job.”
There is little information to bolster these claims, and although the Air Force has not outright denied them, spokespersons for the branch have expressed a belief that the information is false.
“We are unaware of any pilots that have resigned their commissions due to the COVID vaccine,” Deana Heitzman, a spokeswoman with the Air Force press desk, told PolitiFact Friday.
Sarah Sicard is a Senior Editor with Military Times. She previously served as the Digital Editor of Military Times and the Army Times Editor. Other work can be found at National Defense Magazine, Task & Purpose, and Defense News.
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