Leaders at Fort Knox, Kentucky, will punish dozens of soldiers unvaccinated against COVID-19 who were caught entering on-post facilities without wearing a face mask last week, Army officials confirmed.
“The Fort Knox senior commander [Maj. Gen. John Evans] and other commanding generals across Fort Knox are preparing to issue approximately 40 General Officer Memoranda of Reprimand to individuals found to have violated General Order Number 1, dated 17 May 2021,” said Fort Knox spokesperson Kyle Hodges in a statement emailed to Army Times.
GOMORs are a dreaded form of administrative punishment considered to be a “career-killer” when included in a soldier’s permanent personnel file, though the Army has faced criticism in the past for utilizing them and other administrative punishments in lieu of court-martial proceedings for more serious infractions of discipline.
The reprimands are among the first publicly-acknowledged punishments for U.S. troops who have declined the COVID-19 vaccine but failed to wear masks.
“We have soldiers on the installation who are unvaccinated, but are judiciously and conscientiously following masking guidelines,” Hodges said.
Fort Knox officials did not specify whether the GOMORs would be filed in the offenders’ permanent records or merely retained locally and then destroyed once the soldiers were reassigned.
But in line with current Defense Department and Army policy, the Fort Knox general order requires that troops who have declined the COVID-19 vaccine wear masks when inside of public facilities on post. The order also states that “all persons on Fort Knox may be required to show proof of vaccination in order to access and remain in Fort Knox workplaces and facilities without wearing a mask.”
Under the order, vaccinated soldiers do not need to wear face masks.
The unvaccinated, unmasked personnel were directly caught by Fort Knox senior leaders while trying to enter public buildings on-post, Hodges said.
“In just a matter of hours last week, during random inspections, senior Fort Knox leaders identified several dozen unvaccinated individuals attempted to enter on-post facilities such as the Shoppette and Post Exchange without masks,” Hodges said. “These unmasked individuals failed to provide proof of vaccination.”
Fort Knox officials insisted that the move was directly related to protecting troops against the virus, especially its new Delta variant, which seemingly infects even fully vaccinated people with ease.
“By law and regulation, the senior commander at each installation is responsible for the maintenance of good order and discipline, including force health protection,” Hodges added. “As the Delta variant of COVID-19 spreads rapidly across the nation, Fort Knox leaders must continue to ensure the health and safety of those working on the installation and also protect the surrounding community.”
Fort Knox is home to more than 25,000 soldiers assigned to Cadet Command, Recruiting Command, Human Resources Command, and 1st Theater Sustainment Command, among others according to its website.
Hodges said the punishment were a matter of standards, too.
“At the core, this is about enforcing standards and taking care of people,” he said.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to clarify that the punishments meted out to soldiers were for those who declined the COVID-19 vaccine and also failed to follow masking guidelines, not because those soldiers refused vaccination.
Davis Winkie is a senior reporter covering the Army. He focuses on investigations, personnel concerns and military justice. Davis, also a Guard veteran, was a finalist in the 2023 Livingston Awards for his work with The Texas Tribune investigating the National Guard's border missions. He studied history at Vanderbilt and UNC-Chapel Hill.