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A Muslim soldier says she's suing the Army for being told to remove her hijab
A Muslim soldier is preparing to sue the U.S. Army over allegations that her command sergeant major forced her to remove her hijab.
Spc. Cecilia Valdovinos — a soldier with the 704th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division who converted to Islam in 2016 — was granted permission to wear her hijab while in uniform by her brigade commander, Col. David Zinn in June 2018.
But she told Yahoo News it was quickly met with "'extremely hateful' behavior."
"I got called a 'terrorist.' I got called 'ISIS.' I hear comments that I'm the reason why 9/11 happened," Valdovinos told Yahoo. She filed a complaint with the military's Equal Opportunity Office early last month after Command Sgt. Maj. Kerstin Montoya, according to the Army Times, forced her to remove her hijab in front of the other soldiers, saying that her hair was not done to regulation standards underneath it.
"She must have been born on krypton" in order to see Voldovinos' hair through her hijab, said Mikey Weinstein, president and founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), which is helping with Voldovinos' case.
Weinstein said in a separate statement that "even if this CSM did have X-Ray vision, our client's hair was neatly tucked beneath her under-cap, completely in accord with Army appearance regulations. This under-cap is part and parcel of her prior Army-approved hijab garments."
Valdovinos filed a complaint with the Military Equal Opportunity Office which, according to Yahoo, found her claims "unsubstantiated."
She was later demoted from sergeant to specialist, though Zinn said in a statement he could not get into the specifics about the cause of Voldovinos' demotion. The Army "has not taken any adverse actions against Spc. Valdovinos in response to the wear of any religious garment, her equal opportunity complaint, or the resulting media attention," Zinn told Task & Purpose.
"The senior non-commissioned officer acted appropriately by enforcing the proper wear of the hijab, in compliance with Army Regulations," Zinn added.
Army Capt. Brooke Smith, who was reportedly present during Valdinovos' and Montoya's exchange, told Army Times that "[u]pon removing her hijab it was evident her hair was completely down ... CSM Montoya told her to get her hair back in regulation and not let it happen again. At no point did CSM Montoya touch the soldier or yell at her (at all or within earshot of other soldiers)."
Weinstein told Task & Purpose that Montoya approached Valdovinos a second time "after the story went viral," and asked again if her hair was within regulations. Valdovinos replied that it was, according to Weinstein, to which Montoya replied, "I don't believe you," and told her to go into the restroom to fix her hair. He said that Valdovinos was advised by other soldiers who witnessed the interaction to "go...and pretend to fix her hair."
Weinstein called Valdovinos' case a "textbook case of racism," and said MRFF plans to "aggressively make the Army pay for this racism...and harassment."
The Army started allowing religious exemptions for hijabs, turbans, and beards in 2017, saying that brigade commanders had to make religious accommodations unless the commander believes the requested exemption "is not based on a sincerely held religious belief, or identifies a specific, concrete hazard ... that cannot be mitigated by reasonable measures."
"As a brigade our leaders and myself will continue to support every Soldier's right to file a complaint or to express their grievances openly, freely, and without fear of reprisal when they feel they have been treated unfairly," Zinn said in a statement.
"We take pride in the diversity of our Soldier teams who work together as professionals regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation."
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A fire broke out on a Navy amphibious assault ship Thursday night, leaving 11 sailors with minor injuries.
Sailors aboard the amphibious assault ship Iwo Jima reported smoke in the cargo hold at 11:45 p.m. The ship was pierside at Naval Station Mayport, Florida, where it's undergoing maintenance.
Supreme Court to consider whether military personnel can be prosecuted for rape long after the crime occurred
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to consider whether military personnel can be prosecuted for rape long after the crime occurred in an appeal by President Donald Trump's administration of a lower court ruling that overturned the rape conviction of an Air Force captain.
Little girls everywhere will soon have the chance to play with a set of classic little green Army soldiers that actually reflect the presence of women in the armed forces.
My brother earned the Medal of Honor for saving countless lives — but only after he was left for dead
"As I learned while researching a book about John, the SEAL ground commander, Cmdr. Tim Szymanski, had stupidly and with great hubris insisted on insertion being that night."
Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.
Air Force Master Sgt. John "Chappy" Chapman is my brother. As one of an elite group, Air Force Combat Control — the deadliest and most badass band of brothers to walk a battlefield — John gave his life on March 4, 2002 for brothers he never knew.
They were the brave men who comprised a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) that had been called in to rescue the SEAL Team 6 team (Mako-30) with whom he had been embedded, which left him behind on Takur Ghar, a desolate mountain in Afghanistan that topped out at over 10,000 feet.
As I learned while researching a book about John, the SEAL ground commander, Cmdr. Tim Szymanski, had stupidly and with great hubris insisted on insertion being that night. After many delays, the mission should and could have been pushed one day, but Szymanski ordered the team to proceed as planned, and Britt "Slab" Slabinski, John's team leader, fell into step after another SEAL team refused the mission.
But the "plan" went even more south when they made the rookie move to insert directly atop the mountain — right into the hands of the bad guys they knew were there.
The leader of a Chicago-area street gang has been arrested and charged with attempting to aid the ISIS terrorist group, the Department of Justice said Friday.
Jason Brown, also known as "Abdul Ja'Me," allegedly gave $500 on three separate occasions in 2019 to a confidential informant Brown believed would then wire it to an ISIS fighter engaged in combat in Syria. The purported ISIS fighter was actually an undercover law enforcement officer, according to a DoJ news release.