Lance Cpl. Catherine Arnett poses at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Aug. 22, 2022.

Lance Cpl. Catherine Arnett poses at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Aug. 22, 2022. (Jonathan Snyder/Stars and Stripes)

TOKYO — The Marine Corps again dismissed the case against a lance corporal who refused the COVID-19 vaccine last year on an unrelated charge of insubordination and other offenses, a Marine spokesman said Wednesday.

The Marines instead will discharge Lance Cpl. Catherine Arnett, who refused at least three times to board aircraft from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, her duty station at the time, to California. The service never charged Arnett with refusing the vaccine, but she was facing administrative discharge.

“All charges against Lance Cpl. Arnett have been withdrawn at this time,” a spokesman for the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, Maj. Rob Martins, told Stars and Stripes by email Wednesday. “This decision was made judiciously while balancing what was best for Lance Cpl. Arnett and the United States Marine Corps.”

Maj. Gen. Eric Austin, commander of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, made the decision Monday, Martins said.

Arnett was released May 15 from the brig at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar after more than 110 days there and at two sites in Japan. She was conducting a fast, neither eating nor drinking, when she arrived at Miramar, and was placed in solitary confinement.

Arnett, a self-described Catholic, has said she refused the mandated COVID-19 vaccine on religious grounds and considered the vaccine mandate an unlawful order. She has said she wants to remain in the Corps and hoped one day to become a drill instructor. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in September 2021 ordered U.S. service members to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

In January, the defense secretary rescinded the COVID-19 vaccination mandate for service members.

The Marine Corps dismissed five charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice that were pending against Arnett: articles 86, failure to go to an appointed place of duty; 87, missing an official flight or ship movement; 87b, breach of restriction; 90, willfully disobeying a superior commissioned officer; and 91, insubordinate conduct. Arnett had been scheduled for a special court-martial July 21.

“With great dismay I have received the paperwork of the fourth attempt that the Marine Corps is trying to administratively separate me,” Arnett told Stars and Stripes by email on Wednesday.

She will remain in California while the Marine Corps processes her for a general discharge (under honorable conditions), Martins said.

With a general discharge, the service member loses education benefits under the G.I. Bill.

“The next steps for Lance Cpl. Arnett are relevant to the administrative separation process; in this case, that will involve a number of out-processing requirements prior to her administrative separation,” Martins said.

Arnett said she submitted a rebuttal to her pending discharge on Tuesday to Austin and the commander of Marine Aircraft Group 12, Col. Derek Brannon. She was an aviation supply specialist stationed at MCAS Iwakuni from May 2019 until January, when she was moved from the brig there to another at Camp Hansen, Okinawa.

“I dutifully await their responses as I propose for perhaps the last time that justice is facilitated,” she said. “I hope and I pray that they do the right thing.”

Arnett’s case was taken up by the Pipe Hitter Foundation, a nonprofit founded by Eddie Gallagher, a former Navy chief petty officer and SEAL acquitted in 2019 of killing a wounded ISIS prisoner in Iraq a year earlier.

Gallagher and his wife, Andrea Gallagher, voiced support for Arnett in videos posted online and endorsed a fundraising campaign to defray Arnett’s legal expenses on The campaign raised nearly $50,000.

The Dropbox donation page has been removed, along with the mention of Arnett on the Pipe Hitter website.

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Jonathan Snyder is a reporter at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan. Most of his career was spent as an aerial combat photojournalist with the 3rd Combat Camera Squadron at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. He is also a Syracuse Military Photojournalism Program and Eddie Adams Workshop alumnus.

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