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Unvaccinated Air Force cadets won’t be commissioned, will get their degrees


COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- The Air Force Academy announced Saturday that three unvaccinated Air Force Cadets will get their college degrees, but will not be commissioned into the United States Air Force following their graduation.

In a statement, Dean Miller with the USAFA said:

"On Friday, May 20, the U.S. Air Force Academy Board conducted their standard review of whether the Class of 2022 has met all graduation requirements. For the three cadets refusing the COVID-19 vaccine, the Academy Board recommended approval of a Bachelor of Science degree. While they will receive a degree, they will not be commissioned into the United States Air Force as long as they remain unvaccinated. A decision to reimburse the United States for education costs in lieu of service will be made by the Secretary of the Air Force."

Last week, USAFA announced that four seniors remained unvaccinated. Days later, one cadet got vaccinated and another resigned from the Air Force Academy.

According to Dean Miller with the USAFA, the only option graduating seniors have is, "to obey the lawful order and receive the vaccine. Another option is they can elect to voluntarily resign. Otherwise, they will face consequences for disobeying a lawful order."

Tuesday, 13 Investigates spoke with the father of Nathan Suess, a cadet that remains unvaccinated.

"He said 'no this is wrong and unlawful,'" Suess said. "Nathan heard nothing from them for months."

Suess and twelve other cadets, four seniors, two juniors, one sophomore, and six freshmen were denied religious accommodations.

"He's under tremendous pressure and lots of people just say give in, but he wrestling with it," Suess said. "He knows this is wrong, it's immoral, it's illegal but the Academy is not letting up."

A protest against the decision is scheduled for 7:00 a.m. on Wednesday at the Academy, outside the graduation ceremony.

Author Profile Photo

Sean Rice

Sean is a reporter based out of Pueblo for KRDO. Learn more about him here.



  1. So not one student received an exemption for religious convictions with the ESC issue and vaccines. If that’s the case, the USAFA should just state that they will not give any exemptions. Pretending that religious convictions are honored but these cadets didn’t “really” have those convictions is obnoxious. Have they taken “the jab” for the 11 nonESC vaccines the Air Force requires?

    If Google is correct, though, about 8,000 Air Force airmen have been given religious exemptions (and there are also religious exemptions granted for other vaccines that have ESC involvement), so I’m not sure why the Academy is so determined not to do so. Considering the record of as saults, suicides, criminal activity at the Academy in recent years it is really interesting that this is where the admin draws the line.

    1. The cadets who refused to be vaccinated should be required to pay back the money taxpayers paid for their education. They don’t deserve their degrees. They didn’t fulfill their commitment to become officers in the USAF or Space Force.

      1. They entered the Academy for an Air Force that allowed religious exemptions from the use of vaccines developed using embryonic stem cell lines. While they were students, a COVID vaccine was added to the required list and they all were also developed using stem cell lines, and the Air Force outside of the Academy is granting religious exemptions for that. They did not take an education under false pretenses, they had no reason to believe they would lose their commissions for this reason when they entered the Academy.

        1. And they all agreed to follow lawful orders, which they since refused to do.
          And once again, there are no embryonic stem cell derivatives in any of the vaccines administered to the public. While they were used during the development of the vaccines, they have since been replaced completely by T-cells generated by other means. You need to get your facts straight, and stop believing web sites with strong anti-vax biases.

          1. Unfortunately my facts are perfectly straight, as evidenced by your inability to point out actual error despite my sincere request that you do so if you have better information than I have. I object to vaccines or other products that are produced by using cell lines derived from healthy aborted embryos. That use can either be in the manufacturing process or in the research and development of the specific product. You get to disagree with me about my objection, not rewrite what my objection is.

          2. I appreciate your time so I’m going to try this one more time.

            You posted for me three articles, none of them contradict what I am saying. All are headlined that there are no fetal cells *in* the vaccines. I don’t know if you are aware that is a straw man argument. At first I think people made that case because folks on both sides misunderstood the situation, but at this point no one should be pretending objectors think that any more.

            No one disputes that there are *not* cells from aborted fetuses in these vaccines. There were fetuses, probably about 10 weeks in some cases, that were healthy and aborted, I believe in the 70s. They have used those cells to perpetuate cell lines. Those lines are used in some medical research and production. For some vaccines, they are used in the research (e.g. to test the vaccine on human cells to prove the vaccine works, since you can’t infect a person on purpose, it is unethical). Others are used in manufacture (e.g. to grow cultures in). They are cell *lines* and they are not *in” COVID vaccines.

            None of your articles, which are older, mention the Novovax vaccine. People were hoping it would be produced with *no* cell line involvement. The company claims no cell line involvement. But background paperwork shows that at one brief stage the cell lines were used, simply to compare to the cell lines (moth?) that they were going to use instead and prove the the FDA that the two cell lines were comparable. But they *did* use those cell lines at that point. So some people believe that is enough to feel they are complicit if they use the vaccine. Others do not. Still others (including bishops) feel the act of abortion was long enough ago and the need for vaccines important enough that it is acceptable and even recommended to use all but the J and J vaccine (which uses it in manufacture). We have used the vaccine in my house, but it is *completely* reasonable for these cadets to feel they have a conscience objection to using the vaccine. It is also permissable for the Air Force to not commission them. But calling them posers, idiots, or liars is not necessary. I don’t know if this somehow makes my point more clear, seems like the more words I use the less I make sense.

          3. And I’ll try one more comparison. Are you familiar with the story of Henrietta Lacks? A black woman who died of cancer. Her cells have been used to create a cell line that is used in *huge* numbers of products, medical and otherwise. Her children and grandchildren were very, very poor and at first received zero money from the use of the cells while researchers and hospitals made literally billions. If a cadet had an objection to use of a vaccine that uses this cell line in its research and won’t take the vaccine until part of the profit went to the Lacks family, would you feel scornful? You might still feel it was permissable to not commission him as an officer or that he should use the vaccine, but you’d get it that he feels he would be cooperating in an evil act if he uses the vaccine, no?

          4. Sorry to burst your bubble, but what you pointed me to was docümentation of a “proof of concept study” conducted some time prior to 2020. There’s no indication that any of this is related to the actual vaccines that were distributed starting in December 2020. Proof of concept occurs long before mâss production of any product, and doesn’t necessarily reflect the actual final product, or the product used in clinical trials. It’s misinterpretation of information like this that typically causes the spread of false claims about vaccines.

          5. Thanks for your clarification of your POV, I took a second look to see if your point was valid. Seems to me my description is pretty accurate.

            The abstract makes clear this is about the Novavax COVID vaccine, the reference was about Novavax comparing how the spike protein interacts with human kidney cells from ESC and with insect (moth) cells. I am not a microbiologist, but I don’t know how you do this without using those actual ESC cells.

            The only way I can see your point being accurate is if this was research done before the pandemic even began, on spike proteins from other coronaviruses. But in the abstract it specifically references the SARS COVD 2 spike glycoprotein, so I think it’s really stretching it to say these authors were somehow talking about old research on other coronaviruses that were for some reason being compared to insect cells. There’s certainly nothing in the language of the study to indicate that. Take another look if you have time.

            “By comparison with site-specific glycan processing of the spike protein produced in mammalian human embryonic kidney (HEK) 293F cells, both mammalian cells and insect cells exhibit extensive processing at most sites. In general, however processing of glycans on the 2019 CoV prefusion spike protein from insect cells was somewhat greater, particularly at sites 709 and 717, which were predominately oligomannose in spike from HEK293 cells but exclusively complex or paucimannose in spike from Sf9 cells (29).”

          6. Wait, was SARS COVID 2 the first SARS? Was this research done for a vaccine for the first SARS that was never developed?

          7. Oh, nope, it’s our current COVID. Thought I’d figured out what the disconnect was.

          8. I understand what you’re saying. But you’re missing the point that a “proof of concept” is far from the evaluation of a final product. So a proof of concept is testing a basic hypothesis about how a final product might work. If the proof of concept is positive, development of a real product then continues, but not necessarily utilizing the exact same ingredients, because the ingredients used in the proof of concept experiment don’t necessarily lend themselves to large scale production. So there isn’t necessarily ANY connection between what’s used to prove a concept and the final product, except for the basic mechanism of operation.

          9. O.k., I got you!
            So, here’s the deal, those of us with objections to the use of ESCs draw lines in different places. Some draw the line at “they are in the product”. I think there was one vaccine that actually had that (rubella?), but it’s super rare for obvious reasons. Others at “they are used in the manufature of the product” and that’s the J & J vaccine, and it’s where the American bishops draw the line. Others at “they are in the research and development for the product” and that’s all the other vaccines in the U.S. (and other things, like some Pepsi products for awhile, where they used ESC to taste test). Novavax’s use in research is definitely, as you say, very early and very small. But if someone feels that using a product that was developed in any way with new research using ESCs, Novavax falls into that. I mean, you can say it was the intro to the book and not Chapter 1, but the intro doesn’t happen if there is no Chapter 1.

            The AFA is putting out propaganda as if these guys aren’t really against ESC use, they just are MAGA or stupid or dishonorable and therefore they can’t get an exemption — the same kind of exemption that thousands of airmen have already received, the same kind they could have expected to get for other required vaccines according to AF policy well before they entered the academy. They are saying that based on the claim that Novavax has no ESC involvement. But it’s reasonable for the cadets to believe it does. Now, it’s also reasonable for you to believe that the involvement is so minimal that they should take the vaccine — the Pope does, too. But just because you and the Pope would take it, that doesn’t mean these cadets are liars, idiots, or unAmerican if they don’t. That’s where I’m going. Pwew, I think we got there!!

          10. As you said, lines are drawn in different places by different people and groups of people. And I believe we both understand where the lines are now.
            However, it’s also my understanding that Varicella (chicken pox), MMR (the Rubella part), Hepatïtis-A, and one type of Rabies vaccines are all actually derived directly from embryonic stem cells, although many generations removed. But we don’t hear the same concerns about those vaccines, do we? So what’s the difference? I’m at a loss to explain that.

          11. Scroll back at my comments, you’ll see I’ve mentioned many other things, including rubella. I’ve been doing this for twenty years, as have many of the folks I know. We were avoiding Pepsi long before we were avoiding the COVID vaccine. Our pediatrician 19 years ago was able to get us a measles and a mumps vaccine so we wouldn’t have to go without them if we were avoiding rubella (still waiting for Japan’s rubella vaccine to be approved here so we can use it). Merck allowed that at the time, now you can’t get measles or mumps without rubella. I have a kid that was not allowed to go to camp because she didn’t have the varicella vaccine, even though she’d already had chicken pox. This is one of the reasons we are concerned about the COVID involvement, because despite decades of trying to bring this to the attention of people like yourself we now have fewer options than we used to have, and now we have new cell lines being created (in China) from newly aborted fetuses because no one globally seems to care. Just because you haven’t heard of this stuff before now doesn’t mean no one has.

          12. This is why I originally referred you to cogfl, by the way, it has been around for 20 years and been discussing ESC with careful attention to accuracy long before COVID. You won’t look at the information because it is an anti-abortion site, so you don’t know this stuff. I use Gut tm acher In sti tute stats, by the way, because even though they are openly a pro-choice advocacy group they are indisputably accurate in their statistics. These days it’s not a good idea to just believe every group that is your tribe and disbelieve every group that is not, you need to use your own brain.

          13. Gotcha! I think the only thing we seem to disagree on is whether the “proof of concept” tests used the final vaccine that is available to the public, or the questionable component of that final vaccine. I’m basing my opinion on the standard way research is conducted, where the “proof of concept” testing is by definition so far removed from the final product that there’s never any connection between them. The name “proof of concept” is used because it doesn’t provide any proof of the product itself, which always follows later and must have new tests to prove its efficacy.

          14. Then let me try again to understand, what I thought you were saying based on what this reference is about is that the “proof of concept” testing would do things like checking if as sumptions were accurate. Kind of a “clean out the beakers” pre-game show. My thinking is that it’s legit to consider that as part of the work, as actual new testing is being done (they aren’t relying on previously existing info that moth and kidney cells react the same way to a protein spike, they are checking it by using the cells) that would not have been done there and then if the vaccine wasn’t in the plans. So, yes, Novavax considered it not part of research because it was before the countdown started, or before the project was approved, or whatever. But when you are not using industry language but just a normal understanding of “this leads to that” it was obviously integral to the development of the vaccine. How’s that? I’m willing to believe Novavax used technical criteria to say no ESC was used and weren’t necessarily trying to lie if you’re happy to say the cadets that gave up their career for a principle are not necessarily lying or idiots?

          15. LOL, bargaining won’t change the facts! But I don’t think I ever said that the cadets were either lying or idiots. I did say they were guilty of refusing to obey a lawful order, and I still stand by that. But let me also clarify what a “proof of concept” typically does.
            To provide a simple example, if I invented a new type of screwdriver with a triangular-shaped bit (I don’t think there is one!), the proof of concept would show that a triangular-shaped screwdriver would indeed tighten or loosen a screw with a triangular-shaped slot in its head. That only demonstrates that a similar screwdriver will do the job, but it doesn’t specify either the size or what type of metal (or other material) that the screwdriver or the screw must be made of, and that doesn’t matter for the “proof of concept”. The concept is the way the screwdriver works. And that’s similar to the mechanism a vaccine uses to attack a virus, without being too specific about how the components are made. So the final product can use components that function in a similar manner, but were not made from the same material as those used in the “proof of concept”.
            Does that make sense?

          16. I think I’ve gone into *great* depth at least four times here on what the “proof of concept” was about in this instance and why it does, indeed, still raise objections.
            Either you’re not reading past my first boring sentences (who could blame you) or one of us is pulling a Dunning Kruger — or both.

    1. Unfortunately, it’s hard to follow the science properly because the money covers up what the science actually says.

  2. Liberals are trying to turn our military into another one of their pet projects. Stop with your garbage already! Every sovereign nation need the best of the best to maintain peace and sovereignty. That has nothing to do with social scores. Democrats, let’s be honest for once and call this what it is, another leg on you D.I.E. stool.

    1. It seems to me this is signalling on the part of the Academy leadership. They don’t want to look like they are giving commissions to men or women who seem to be right wing, and certainly don’t want to give a commission to men or women who oppose abortion out loud. Meanwhile, if you Google “as sault at air force academy” you will get a long list of actual criminal allegations that the Academy leadership let pas s, because refusing a COVID vaccine is worthy of losing your commission but actually attacking fellow candidates is, I don’t know, just boys being boys?

      1. Sorry to burst your bubble, but the current USAFA leadership takes criminal allegations quite seriously, unlike the previous regime. That said, the Air Force in general is loathe to publicize its dirty laundry, not to mention the results of any disciplinary procedures. The only time anyone hears about such issues is when it involves civilians, or when one of the parties goes outside the gate to the media.

        1. It’s a problem with a lot of organizations, and it looks like the last scandal was 2019? So I believe you if you tell me there’s been a leadership change. But I’m not talking about quietly punishing and removing offenders, I’m talking about ignoring or discouraging reporting. It got pretty bad, didn’t it? Still, you’re right that if it’s different people I can’t compare apples to oranges. We’ll have to see what the record of the current admin is on that stuff, and we can’t know that yet.

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