Sikhs Enlist in US Air Force, Will Wear Turbans, Beards

In June, A1C Sunjit Rathour became the first Sikh to graduate US Air Force basic training at Lackland AFB while wearing his turban and beard. In September he was the first to graduate from the Security Forces course.

Similarly, Gurchetan Singh will soon go to basic training before he joins the 194th Air National Guard wing as a Sikh wearing the articles of his faith.

While the ability to exercise one’s faith is important to one’s own religious practice, A1C Rathour also explained why it can be important for others

Though he looked a little different from the other Security Forces graduates, the younger Rathour said he got along well with his peers.

They were more curious than anything, so they loved to ask questions and I had no trouble answering,” he said. “They wonder what the beard is about, what the turban is about, what my religion is, and they asked me how I got the religious accommodation…”

The airmen found it fascinating, he said.

There’s a reason for a public witness, or even something as subtle as a cross around your neck or a Bible on your desk. It doesn’t convert people by proximity, as some critics seem to think — but it can start a conversation.

Sikhs are allowed to express and exercise their faith even in uniform.

Christians are, too.