By Asia Samachar Team | UNITED STATES |
Sikhs serving in the United States (US) armed forces can hail yet another milestone when a Sikh airman passed with flying colours his training while retaining his turban and beard, a religious requirement for observant Sikhs.
Sunjit Singh Rathour of the U.S. Air Force became the first Sikh airman to complete U.S. Air Force basic training and the Security Forces Apprentice Course with religious accommodations.
“Went from #A1CRathour to #DefenderRathour today. Pops (BIG OG) has to pin my shield on me,” Airman First Class (A1C) Sunjit shared writes on his personal Facebook page, accompanied by some photographs.
Sunjit has become the first Sikh American to complete both Air Force basic training and advanced technical training while wearing a turban, beard, and unshorn hair, in compliance with his Sikh religious beliefs, according to a statement (dated 26 Sept 2019) released by American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Rathour obtained a religious accommodation with assistance from ACLU and the Sikh American Veterans Alliance (SAVA), it said.
After successfully completing Basic Military Training in June, it said Rathour immediately enrolled in the Air Force’s Advanced Individual Training (AIT) School, where he studied to become part of the Air Force’s Security Forces.
“Today, after an additional three months of training, he graduates from that program,” it said.
Rathour is the first recruit authorized by the Air Force to adhere to Sikh religious grooming and dress principles immediately upon enlistment, including during the Air Force’s rigorous training programs, the statement added.
“As Sunjit’s experience demonstrates, recruits with religious accommodations are able to undertake the same training as other airmen,” said Heather L. Weaver, senior staff attorney with the ACLU. “We hope that the other branches of the military will follow in the footsteps of the Army and the Air Force by granting similar accommodations to those who request them.”
Lieutenant Colonel Kamal Singh Kalsi (US Army Reserve), president of SAVA and one of the first Sikh service members to receive a religious accommodation from the Army, added: “Being able to serve your country is a point of pride for many Sikhs. It was an honor to attend A1C Rathour’s basic training and AIT graduation ceremonies and to see him make history as the first Sikh to complete basic and technical training in the Air Force while wearing a turban, beard, and unshorn hair.”
In the same statement, Sunjit said: “I’m thrilled that the Air Force gave me the opportunity to complete both basic and technical training with a religious accommodation. My fellow airmen and superiors have been nothing but supportive, and I look forward to continuing my service for years to come.”
The story was picked up by television station KSAT 12, see here.
Beard and turban approved for US Sikh airman (Asia Samachar, 7 June 2019)
Sikh turban victory against U.S. army (Asia Samachar, 15 June 2015)