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TUCSON, Arizona (LifeSiteNews) – The Biden administration’s mandate that all members of the U.S. military take the COVID-19 vaccines is harming military readiness by risking a severe pilot shortage, warns an Air Force Academy graduate removed from pilot’s training for seeking religious accommodation to the mandate.

Speaking at a Flag Day press conference hosted Tuesday by the medical freedom nonprofit Truth for Health Foundation, which was live-streamed here on LifeSiteNews, Truth for Health president and CEO Dr. Elizabeth Lee Vliet introduced Lt. John Bowes as “an Air Force Academy distinguished graduate” and “former F-16 student pilot” who was “punitively removed from training and since has become intimately familiar with the dire consequences of this vaccine mandate to our national security, to military recruiting.”

“I’d like to start off first by saying that this group of pilots and the group of individuals in the Department of Defense that are speaking up about this mandate is not a small contingent, and it’s not a contingent of rebellious individuals or those who simply want to act out for the sake of acting out or for political motivations or anything else of the sort,” Bowes stressed. “All of these service members are just trying to uphold their oath to the Constitution, United States, and stand up for their beliefs that define who they are as a person and their relationship with God. Currently, I am aware of more than 136,000 service members who are actively speaking up and resisting this mandate.”

“I’m aware of more than 700 pilots that are actively unvaccinated and trying to stand up for their constitutional and statutory rights within the military. The implications of 700 pilots is pretty extreme,” he warned. “And a report was sent to Congress detailing those exact outcomes that could potentially happen if these service members were to be discharged. A survey was conducted of about 357 pilots, to be exact, actually 357 pilots. And some data was collected in terms of how many years of service they have, how much they’re worth in taxpayer dollars and training costs and metrics like how many are instructor pilots?”

“To give some background before I give that data, I’d like to preface that. In 2015, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General [David] Goldfein, stated that a 1,500-pilot shortage was a crisis and that number has since grown to 1,650,” Bowes continued. “We’re already in an extreme pilot shortage in the Department of Defense, and that’s across all service branches. The survey was conducted with all service branches in mind without the Coast Guard. So that’s Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force pilots. And these 357 pilots are worth 4.8 excuse me, $7.8 billion in your tax funds. On top of that, the average years of service of these members is 14 years.”

“These are highly experienced aviators who have lethality and experience and the ability to teach new aviators that we’re trying to replace currently,” the lieutenant noted. “To fill this shortage, 69% of those aviators are instructor pilots. Now the implications of this might not be immediately apparent, but given the crisis and meaning that we already have within the Department of Defense for pilots, just those 357 pilots alone, not to mention the 700 total and likely more would be a humongous detriment to our national security. Not only would we be losing these aviators who are highly experienced and capable of fighting wars for us in a time when tensions with China and Russia rise.”

“Why are we doing this?” Bowes asked. “Why are we denying these service members their religious beliefs? Why are we fighting them when they’re speaking up about what they believe to be their constitutional oath over a vaccine that still causes people to get COVID and still causes people to spread COVID?”

Last August, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin directed the secretaries of all military branches to “immediately begin full [COVID] vaccination of all members of the Armed Forces” and “impose ambitious timelines for implementation.” The majority of service members complied, but tens of thousands remain unvaccinated, with many seeking exemptions.

Several thousand have secured exemptions for non-religious reasons, but the military has been largely unwilling to approve religious exemptions to the shots, which were developed and/or tested with the use of fetal cells from aborted babies. In December, the military began discharging soldiers for vaccine refusal, prompting legal challenges that have so far been neglected by the U.S. Supreme Court.

While defenders of vaccine mandates are quick to point out that the military has long required soldiers to vaccinate against a range of diseases due to the harsh and exotic locales soldiers are sent to for extended periods of time and the close quarters they typically share with one another, previous vaccines were typically subjected to far more evaluation and development time before being put into widespread use than the COVID shots received during their accelerated clinical trials.

During a COVID-19 vaccine hearing held by Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin in January, attorney Thomas Renz presented medical billing data from the Pentagon’s Defense Medical Epidemiology Database (DMED) showing that 2021 saw drastic spikes in a variety of diagnoses for serious medical issues over the previous five-year average, including hypertension (2,181%), neurological disorders (1,048%), multiple sclerosis (680%), Guillain-Barre syndrome (551%), breast cancer, (487%), female infertility (472%), pulmonary embolism (468%), migraines (452%), ovarian dysfunction (437%), testicular cancer (369%), and tachycardia (302%).

In a statement to left-wing “fact-checking” outlet PolitiFact, Defense Health Agency Armed Forces Surveillance Division spokesperson Peter Graves confirmed the authenticity of the records but claimed that a conveniently-timed “data corruption” glitch made the pre-2021 numbers appear far lower than the actual numbers of cases for those years, an explanation that PolitiFact took at face value and the media has been largely uninterested in investigating further.

In April, attorney and former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who is representing 36 Air Force members suing the Biden administration over the mandate, argued that his clients, including 17 pilots, represent a $93.5 million training investment. “Most of them are very senior pilots, and the notion that we would fire these pilots that the United States has invested tens of millions of dollars in is just outrageous. We are impairing our readiness,” Kobach said. “There are a couple from Texas who are full-time instructor pilots and the commander at that base is complaining that we aren’t training enough pilots fast enough, yet the military is forcing the removal of highly experienced, highly trained pilots and forcing the removal of the instructors who would train new pilots.”

U.S. service members facing medical coercion over the COVID-19 shots or denied effective treatment can apply for Medical Freedom Fund Grants at Truth for Health’s website by clicking here. The group’s website also contains additional resources, including medical information, civilian legal resources, news, COVID treatment information, and a form for reporting vaccine injuries.