Tags: army | sikh | turban | beard

Army: Sikh Man Is First Active Duty Soldier Allowed Turban, Beard

Image: Army: Sikh Man Is First Active Duty Soldier Allowed Turban, Beard
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By    |   Tuesday, 05 Apr 2016 11:38 AM

Simratpal Singh, a decorated U.S. Army soldier and Sikh, has been granted permission to serve while wearing a turban and full beard, items pertinent to his faith.

In October, Singh asked for an exemption to the Army’s ban on long hair and beards, CNN reported. He was granted a temporary exemption and was asked to report for additional gas and helmet testing.

He sued the Department of Defense in February, saying the extra testing amounted to religious discrimination. The accommodation was granted last week, making the 28-year-old soldier the first active duty soldier to be given such permission.

"As a kid, you are told, you can be anything in the U.S., and that rings through even more now," Singh told CNN.

Assistant Secretary of the Army Debra Wada filed a memorandum explaining the decision.

"While assigned or performing non-hazardous duties, you may wear a beard, turban, and uncut hair in a neat and conservative manner that presents a professional and well-groomed appearance," she wrote. "The bulk of the hair, beard or turban may not be such that it impairs your ability to wear the Army Combat Helmet (ACH) or other protective equipment or impedes your ability to operate your assigned weapon, military equipment, or machinery."

The memorandum stipulates that the turban must be black or a camouflage pattern, and that the beard must be rolled and tied to no more than two inches in length. It also states that quarterly assessments will be conducted to determine "the effect of the accommodation, if any, on unit cohesion and morale, good order and discipline, health and safety, and individual and unit readiness."

Singh told The New York Times that it was a difficult decision to shave 10 years ago when he entered West Point.

"I had to choose between serving my country and my faith," he told the Times. "I was 18 years old and I didn’t really know what to do, or who to go to, to try to change things. As terrible as it sounds when I showed up at West Point, I accepted defeat. But I promised myself I would find a way back to my roots while also serving my country. I knew I would figure out a way. See, for me, the Sikh faith is all about justice, tolerance, equality, sticking up for the oppressed — all the things the U.S. Army also stands for. I’m just glad I could finally fit those two parts of my world together."

Singh was deployed to Afghanistan in 2012, and received a Bronze Star for his tour. He came to the U.S. from Punjab, India, when he was 9 years old.

Twitter users had mixed reactions to the decision.









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Simratpal Singh, a decorated U.S. Army soldier and Sikh, has been granted permission to serve while wearing a turban and full beard, items pertinent to his faith.
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2016-38-05
Tuesday, 05 Apr 2016 11:38 AM
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