Army Rules That Sikh Combat Soldier Now Permitted To Keep His Beard

news
U.S. Army photo

Army Capt. Simratpal Singh is the first combat soldier who will be able to keep his beard in a rare exception, according to The according to the New York Times.


Nearly 10 years ago, when Singh enrolled at West Point, he was required to shave his beard, and choose serve his country over his religion.

The Army did not comment about how or why the decision was made. According to spokeswoman Lt. Col. Jennifer R. Johnson, all requests for such accommodations are evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

This is a win for Singh, who was granted the accommodation for one month pending a permanent ruling from the Army. The decision to make an exception for Singh, however, will not impact the rest of the military.

A majority of requests in recent years have been denied. One such case involved the denial of a Sikh student from Hofstra University hoping to join the Army’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. Lt. Gen. James C. McConville, the officer in charge of accommodations, claimed that it was both a safety issue, and that any break in uniformity — like that of a beard or a turban — could erode esprit de corps and undermine officer credibility.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the safety argument is invalid, adding that the Army has made a number of exceptions for multiple reasons, from preventing acne to religion.

These accommodations are important for Sikhs who have a long history of military service. Singh decided to join because Sikhism encourages its followers to protect the oppressed.

Whether or not this will spark a larger conversation about religious exceptions is unknown. The Army has and likely will continue to deny such requests from incoming recruits, arguing that they can apply for accommodations only after shaving their beards, removing turbans, and formally joining.

For Singh, who felt he spent nearly a decade living two separate lives, this is a major turning point.

“It is wonderful. I had been living a double life, wearing a turban only at home,” Singh said. “My two worlds have finally come back together.”

Every once in a while, we run across a photo in The Times-Picayune archives that's so striking that it begs a simple question: "What in the name of Momus Alexander Morgus is going on in this New Orleans photograph?" When we do, we've decided, we're going to share it — and to attempt to answer that question.

Read More Show Less
Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces control the monitor of their drone at their advanced position, during the fighting with Islamic State's fighters in Nazlat Shahada, a district of Raqqa. (Reuters/Zohra Bensemra)

MUSCAT (Reuters) - The United States should keep arming and aiding the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) following the planned U.S. withdrawal from Syria, provided the group keeps up the pressure on Islamic State, a senior U.S. general told Reuters on Friday.

Read More Show Less

President Donald Trump claims the $6.1 billion from the Defense Department's budget that he will now spend on his border wall was not going to be used for anything "important."

Trump announced on Friday that he was declaring a national emergency, allowing him to tap into military funding to help pay for barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Read More Show Less

Long before Tony Stark took a load of shrapnel to the chest in a distant war zone, science fiction legend Robert Heinlein gave America the most visceral description of powered armor for the warfighter of the future. Forget the spines of extra-lethal weaponry, the heads-up display, and even the augmented strength of an Iron Man suit — the real genius, Heinlein wrote in Starship Troopers, "is that you don't have to control the suit; you just wear it, like your clothes, like skin."

"Any sort of ship you have to learn to pilot; it takes a long time, a new full set of reflexes, a different and artificial way of thinking," explains Johnny Rico. "Spaceships are for acrobats who are also mathematicians. But a suit, you just wear."

First introduced in 2013, U.S. Special Operations Command's Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) purported to offer this capability as America's first stab at militarized powered armor. And while SOCOM initially promised a veritable Iron Man-style tactical armor by 2018, a Navy spokesman told Task & Purpose the much-hyped exoskeleton will likely never get off the launch pad.

"The prototype itself is not currently suitable for operation in a close combat environment," SOCOM spokesman Navy Lt. Phillip Chitty told Task & Purpose, adding that JATF-TALOS has no plans for an external demonstration this year. "There is still no intent to field the TALOS Mk 5 combat suit prototype."

Read More Show Less

D-Day veteran James McCue died a hero. About 500 strangers made sure of it.

"It's beautiful," Army Sgt. Pete Rooney said of the crowd that gathered in the cold and stood on the snow Thursday during McCue's burial. "I wish it happened for every veteran's funeral."

Read More Show Less