The Army command responsible for training most of the service’s officers is “looking into” a social media post purportedly made by one of its officers questioning the Army’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
The post came from a now-deleted Twitter account, @james_attaway04, in response to a tweet from Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston imploring leaders across the force to read about the service’s move to separate troops who have refused the shot.
Enlisted troops declining the vaccine face immediate separation action, and retirement-eligible troops and officers have until March to submit their retirement or resignation requests.
The account that responded to the SMA appeared to belong to Lt. Col. James Attaway III, the head of Stephen F. Austin State University’s ROTC program. It featured multiple photographs of the officer in his duties, as well as photographs of mail sent to him.
“The vaccine doesn’t stop you from getting or transmitted [sic] Covid, but we’re mandating that the most healthy population on the planet get vaccinated or be discharged?” the tweet said. “It’s time to resign....”
Grinston responded, and tagged Cadet Command’s top general, Maj. Gen. Johnny Davis.
“Thanks for your reply,” he said. “I’m sure [Davis] received your feedback as well?”
Indeed he has, according to a Cadet Command spokesperson.
“Cadet Command is aware of the tweet attributed to one of our professors of military science that disagreed with the Department of the Army’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate and tagged the Sergeant Major of the Army,” said Lt. Col. Nichole Downs, a command spokesperson. “The command is looking into it and will take appropriate action as required.”
It’s not clear what action, if any, the Army will take.
Attaway declined comment when reached via email and provided contact information for his attorney, Capt. Matthew Bishop, who said in a phone interview that he would not “confirm or deny” that the officer had sent the tweet.
Bishop expressed frustration with how the service has been handling the vaccine mandate, saying he didn’t “think [it] was that controversial” and noting that Attaway is “fully vaccinated.”
The attorney said he thinks a bigger issue is “a rise of unprofessionalism” over the vaccine mandate and pressure “from [Attaway’s commanding general]” after Grinston tagged him in the tweet.
“Soldiers still have first amendment rights,” he added.
According to a 2021 Texas legislative resolution congratulating Attaway on his selection for battalion command, the aviation officer has more than 20 years of service, including deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo. He’s also completed Ranger School, and has an Expert Infantry Badge from his time as an enlisted soldier in the 82nd Airborne Division.
Bishop confirmed that Attaway had declined battalion command and was already in the retirement process before the tweet.
Davis Winkie is a senior reporter covering the Army, specializing in accountability reporting, personnel issues and military justice. He joined Military Times in 2020. Davis studied history at Vanderbilt University and UNC-Chapel Hill, writing a master's thesis about how the Cold War-era Defense Department influenced Hollywood's WWII movies.