Monday, December 14, 2015

Army Grants Accommodation For Sikh Combat Soldier To Wear Beard

According to a New York Times report yesterday, the U.S. military for the first time has granted a Sikh combat soldier a religious accommodation to allow him to grow a beard and serve with uncut hair under his turban.  Captain  Simratpal Singh, a West Point graduate and Bronze Star winner who led a platoon of combat engineers in clearing roadside bombs in Afghanistan, previously reluctantly shed his beard and long hair.  But recently while on leave he stopped shaving.  Now the Army has granted him (with certain conditions) a one-month temporary exemption (full text of Army memo) while it considers whether to make the accommodation permanent.  Since 2009, three other Sikhs, two Muslims and a Jewish rabbi have been granted religious accommodations to wear beards, but none of them were in combat units.  They were either chaplains or specialized medical personnel.  Some believe that Capt. Singh's case could serve as precedent for other Sikhs, Muslims and others who wish to adhere to their religious traditions while in the Army.