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An Air Force pilot who once sought a court-martial so he could confront the military’s controversial anthrax vaccine policy has reluctantly taken the shot.

Lt. Col. Jay Lacklen said he had concluded that he had no chance of beating the military in court.

Lacklen, a C-5 reservist pilot assigned to the Dover Air Force Base, Del.-based 326th Airlift Squadron, had challenged his command to court-martial him earlier this month. He accused his command of grounding him and sending him to Spain and Illinois on temporary duty in order to avoid dealing with his refusal.

He initially wanted to argue in front of a judge that the order to take the vaccine was illegal because the shot contained a dangerous booster not approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

But he said his commander convinced him last week that a judge would likely exclude such a defense. Lacklen, who has 33 years of service, risked going to a military prison and losing his pension for refusing an order to take the shot.

“I had the science to beat them, but if they wouldn’t allow it into court, it would do me no good,” Lacklen said in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes. “I’d be, essentially, defenseless, despite having an excellent defense.”

The military has required all servicemembers to take the six-shot vaccine and annual booster to counter a potential biological attack. But some people have been critical of the shots, claiming they have caused numerous side effects. Since the military resumed the vaccine program earlier his year, some servicemembers have been punished severely for refusals.

Lacklen, who said he has experienced joint pain and arthritis since he started taking the shots, blames the vaccine for ailments in his squadron.

He attributes the health problems to the presence of squalene in some lots. Squalene is a naturally occurring substance that has been used to boost the effectiveness of vaccines, but is not approved for the anthrax vaccine by the FDA.

The Defense Department has acknowledged that some shots have had traces of squalene, but it was minute and not harmful. The Pentagon has insisted from the beginning that the vaccine is safe.

The day he took the shot, Lacklen said he drove home, looked at his daughters and “folded.”

“This was especially difficult because all my daughters had told me, despite the dire possibilities, that they would back me if I thought I had to do it,” he said. “It wasn’t they who folded, it was me.”

The case of Maj. Sonnie Bates influenced his decision, Lacklen said. Bates, a Dover-based C-5 pilot at the time, refused in 1999 to take the inoculation, but an Air Force judge in a hearing disallowed the aviator from challenging the legality of the order in a court-martial. Bates was separated from the military with a general discharge under honorable conditions in 2000.

Lacklen said he has resumed flying.

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