Last week, the US Air Force quietly published an update to its uniform regulation, AFI 36-2903, Dress and Personal Appearance of Air Force Personnel, which governs how Airmen are required to wear their uniforms. The new regulation included attachments that specifically covered turbans, hijabs, and beards for the first time. While AFI 36-2903 previously discussed “religious apparel,” this is the first time it was covered in such depth.
In addition, it prioritized accommodation Air Force wide. For example, previous versions often restricted accommodation — if it was even granted — to a single military installation.
The new regulation also lowers the level of approval required for some accommodations. For example, Wing Commanders (generally, the commander of the Air Force base) are authorized to approve
hijab, beard, turban or under-turban/patka, unshorn beards, unshorn hair, and indoor/outdoor head coverings.
Importantly, however, if the commander desires to disapprove that accommodation, the request has to be disapproved at AF Headquarters at Read more
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: Read more
In a recent article the Air Force indicated that despite the recent publicity of Airmen and other military members being granted waivers to grow religious beards, there hasn’t been a marked increase in the requests:
The Air Force, citing privacy concerns, declined to identify how many airmen have obtained waivers based on religious exemptions but said the publicity surrounding approvals in recent years has not caused an increase in waiver requests.
The article also revealed that despite the publicity surrounding the “heathen” beard approval for SSgt Garrett Sopchak, he was actually the second Airman to get one for “norse heathenism”, after SSgt William Bailey in March.
The policy changes that have supported Read more
The Air Force Times reports on Air Force SSgt Garrett Sopchak, who just became the first US Air Force Airman to be allowed to wear a beard — because he adheres to Norse Heathen religious beliefs.
The Army granted a similar waiver last year, and beard exemptions have been granted for a growing number of Sikhs and Muslims — though not atheists.
Sopchak, a 28-year-old aerospace ground equipment craftsman at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, on July 8 become the first airman to get approval to wear a beard in accordance with his Heathen faith.
Sopchak said in a Tuesday interview that in the old sagas, a beard was Read more
Matthew Cox at Military.com reports the US Army has granted 60 religious accommodations to Sikhs entering the service, most recently to 14 high schoolers who will soon enlist:
Army Lt. Col. Kamal Kalsi, who is the president of the non-profit advocacy group that promotes Sikhism and military service, was surprised to learn there are 13 other high school students who will be allowed to enlist in the Army and openly serve as Sikhs.
This is a new milestone, he said.
“It shows progress,” Kalsi told Military.com, adding that he has been involved in this effort since he was granted the first such accommodation in 2009. “I was the first to get the accommodation for turban and beard way back in the day.”
Kalsi, who is also president and Read more
SSgt Abdul Rahman Gaitan has become the first US Air Force Airman to obtain a religious exemption to grow a beard in uniform:
The biggest challenge yet, was getting approval for his shaving waiver from Air Force Headquarters. This required endorsement by the unit commander, base chaplain, installation commander up to the Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff, Personnel Division. This process took Gaitan almost four years to accomplish.
Interestingly, the article explains Gaitan was actually Catholic, but he apparently became disenchanted with the lack of authenticity in the liturgical faith — and he was drawn to the seeming sincerity of Islam he saw in locals while stationed in Turkey.
With the beard openly displaying his religion, Gaitan says Read more
Newly commissioned 2LT Kanwar Singh has become the most recent US Army officer to wear a turban and beard, the articles of his Sikh faith: Read more
In an interesting deviation from its prior statements on accommodating religion, the US Military Academy at West Point has apparently required two observant Sikh cadets to wear their ceremonial uniform cover — known as the “tar bucket” — “over or in place of” their turban. The cadets, Gurijuwan Singh Chahal and Arjan Singh Ghotra, maintain this “would desecrate their religious values” and have filed a lawsuit in response:
“Forcing New Cadet Chahal and New Cadet Ghotra to choose between their country and their God in this manner violates the Army’s own regulations, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, and the First and Fifth Amendments to the United States Constitution,” the complaint states.
(Arjan Singh Ghotra previously enlisted Read more