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(LifeSiteNews) – While much has been made of the military vaccine mandate’s ramifications for health, freedom, and military readiness, forcing the COVID-19 shots on established service members also carries a far more literal cost: squandering the millions of dollars that were spent training the soldiers being forced out.

The Epoch Times reported that the U.S. Air Force has rejected 5,259 religious accommodation requests, or more than 99% of the requests submitted, though it has granted 3,781 sought for medical or otherwise non-religious reasons. One analysis estimates the training of a single pilot to cost $5.5 million, meaning that even if only a third of those rejected religious accommodation represented a pilot, and if all those applicants are ultimately discharged from service, they would still represent the loss of a $9.5 billion investment.

Attorney and former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who is representing 36 Air Force members suing the Biden administration over the mandate, says his clients include 17 pilots, who 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. It’s just nonsense to do this. The military, in the name of readiness, is destroying its own readiness.”

“These individuals all want to remain in the military, in particular the active duty Air Force and the full-time Reserve,” he added. “They’ve invested their lives in this career and they fully intend to fight to keep their place in the Air Force. But if push comes to shove and they are forced to choose between their career and their faith, they will choose their faith. It’s a horrible way to treat the men and women who are fighting to defend our Constitution against foreign aggressors, to deny them their own constitutional protections.”

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 vast 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, all of which were either developed or tested with the use of fetal cells from aborted babies. In December, the military began discharging soldiers for vaccine refusal. The conflict has provoked several lawsuits.

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 have historically been subjected to far more evaluation and development time before being put into widespread use than the COVID shots received during their accelerated clinical trials.

In late February, during a COVID-19 vaccine hearing held by Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, 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, the Defense Health Agency’s Armed Forces Surveillance Division spokesperson Peter Graves confirmed the existence 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, which PolitiFact took at face value.

“I believe the COVID vaccine is a greater threat to soldier’s health and military readiness than the virus itself,” Lt. Col. Theresa Long, a senior Army aerospace medicine specialist, testified in November.