Tag Archives: Sikh

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 othersRead more

Beard Requests Haven’t Spiked, But Religious Freedom Rises

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

US Air Force Grants Exemption for Norse Heathen Beard

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

US Army Grants Waivers to 14 Sikh High Schoolers

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

Muslim Airman First to get Beard Waiver

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

Sikh Cadets Sue West Point over Turban, Uniform Hat

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

Diversity in the US Military, and the Right Priorities

In an interesting piece at Military.com, US Navy PO2 Guldeep “Geena” Kaur Sidhu describes what it’s like to be a Sikh woman serving in the US military, noting:

In today’s politically charged and increasingly globalized world, it’s more important than ever to be open to the beliefs and cultures of those around you.

Kaur notes there is virtue in promoting and highlighting religious liberty and the values of religious belief:

I believe that it will lead us to greater unity. By better understanding the identities of our brothers and sisters in arms, we can become closer as a unified force. I hope that the changes brought about by this new directive will serve to educate my fellow service members on the Sikh religion, and how closely it aligns with the American values we’re fighting for day in and day out.

As has been noted in the past, there has been Read more

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