National Guard Bureau chief tests positive for COVID-19

National Guard Bureau Chief Gen. Dan Hokanson is in isolation after testing positive for COVID-19 this week, the military announced Friday.

Hokanson is “working remotely and isolating himself from contact with others,” following the positive test, National Guard Bureau spokesman Wayne Hall said in a statement.

All other members of the bureau staff are continuing with their duties under the Pentagon’s existing coronavirus protocols and continue to be tested as required, Hall added.

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Hokanson's test comes after he traveled to Europe last week to visit Guard troops for Thanksgiving. 

Stops in Europe included Kosovo, Poland, Spain and a refueling stop in Ireland, with a return to Washington on Nov. 26. At "every stop along the way" Hokanson was tested and each came back negative, Hall said.

The new case comes as the state of Oklahoma is in the midst of a fight with the Pentagon and the Biden administration over a coronavirus vaccine mandate for the National Guard.

The Pentagon in late August required vaccinations for the military, but in early November, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) asked Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinGOP lawmakers press administration on US weapons left behind in Afghanistan Overnight Defense & National Security — Texas hostage situation rattles nation Milley tests positive for COVID-19 MORE to exempt his state’s National Guard from the vaccine mandate.

Stitt also ordered a memo stipulating that no member of the Guard is required to get vaccinated.

Austin on Tuesday pushed back with his own memo stating that the Guard and Reserve service members who do not comply with the mandate can face loss of pay and will be marked absent without cause from drills and training — a move which would impact days service members accrue towards retirement.

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In response, the state of Oklahoma on Thursday filed a federal lawsuit seeking to prevent the mandate for guard members. 

Hokanson supports the vaccine mandate.

The new COVID-19 case also marks the first time in more than a year a senior defense official has contracted the virus.

In that case, Coast Guard vice commandant Adm. Charles Ray tested positive for coronavirus in October 2020, forcing several top generals – including Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark MilleyMark MilleyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Voting rights week for Democrats (again) Overnight Defense & National Security — Texas hostage situation rattles nation Milley tests positive for COVID-19 MORE — to quarantine after they were in a meeting with him prior to his positive test.

A total of 77 service members have died from COVID-19 and more than 251,300 have contracted the virus, according to the latest Pentagon data released Monday.

— Updated at 4:06 p.m.