Officer Could Face Court Marshall Over Anthrax Vaccination

On Oct. 18th of last year, Capt. John Buck was put on standby for possible deployment to Bahrain, near Saudi Arabia. The military considers that a high risk area for anthrax and requires its personnel to be vaccinated against exposure.

Sgt. Tina Mauro notified Buck of his possible assignment told him to get the required vaccinations... including anthrax. According to her testimony, she said "He told me he wasn't going to get the vaccine. I asked him why. He said because he'd seen too many patients with adverse reactions to it."

Mauro says she called Buck's commanding officer, Lt. Colonel Richard Griffith, and told him that Buck wouldn't take the shot. Griffith says he met with Buck twice.

"I told him his refusal could have adverse consequences on his military career.  It was a lawful legitimate order, and he was disobeying the order," Lt. Col. Griffith said in his testimony. "He's very sincere. I think he's doing what he thinks is right for people he thinks may be at risk. I don't think he was trying to be a problem. I believe he has a very strong conviction that this is not the right thing to do."

Griffith says Buck told him he was willing to go anywhere, but he didn't want to take the vaccine.  Griffith says Buck even offered to sign a waiver releasing the military of liability.

The colonel refused, saying he knew of no such waiver. Keesler's Chief of Military Justice, Capt. Jim Winner, says none exists.

"In the military, we can't pick and choose the orders we're going to follow," Capt. Winner said.  "That would set a really dangerous precedent. We have to make sure all our troops are innoculated.  Capt. Buck would have been no use to the military sending him out there without that protection."

Winner says the whole case against Buck centers around protecting the troops.

"We'd be putting the mission at risk," Capt. Winner said.  "We'd be putting lives at risk if we didn't require this innoculation to those troops going to those areas."

It will be up to Keesler's Second Air Force Commander to decide if Buck will be court martialed.