EXCLUSIVE: A National Guard recruit in South Dakota is being denied the opportunity to have his family attend his enlistment ceremony due to the military’s outdated COVID-19 policies, a Republican lawmaker charged on Friday.

Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., sent a letter Friday urging the leader of United States Military Entrance Processing Command – which oversees new recruits not entering through service academies or ROTC programs – to lift COVID-related restrictions on guests who want to attend enlistment ceremonies.

“I recently spoke to a South Dakota constituent who is being denied the opportunity to witness her son raise his right hand and take the Oath of Enlistment to ‘support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic’ for the South Dakota National Guard due to the U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command (MEPS) guest policy related to COVID-19,” wrote Johnson to Col. Megan B. Stallings, commander of USMEPCOM.

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Johnson continued, “During COVID-19, families were prohibited from attending swearing-in ceremonies for military personnel. Despite the Department of Defense rescinding this policy in January 2023, MEPS is now operating under a visitor pilot program that currently excludes U.S. National Guard enlistees’ guests from attending enlistment ceremonies.”

“This restrictive policy did not exist prior to the pandemic, and since the Commander in Chief fully ended the national emergency in April 2023, the MEPS previous policy to accommodate all guests should be restored.”

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Documents shown to Fox News Digital indicate that MEPS began a pilot program to allow a maximum of two guests for Oath of Enlistment ceremonies in May of this year, after President Biden ended the federal COVID-19 pandemic emergency.

Guests had been banned from attending such events since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

While MEPS handles recruitment across all armed forces branches and the National Guard, a source told Fox News Digital that the pilot program currently excludes the latter group altogether, leaving those enlistees in a post-pandemic limbo.

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Johnson did not name the specific recruit in his letter but warned that current restrictions will not help ease the military’s dire personnel shortage.

He wrote, “As the Armed Services face an unprecedented recruiting problem, I’d advise you welcome families to this sacred service, not keep them out. I strongly urge you to immediately return to the pre-COVID guest attendance policy at all processing stations in the name of our national defense and common sense.”

Fox News Digital has reached out to the South Dakota National Guard and USMEPCOM for comment.

Elizabeth Elkind is a politics reporter for Fox News Digital.

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