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11-11-2010, 08:45 AM #1
US Army gets first Sikh soldier since 1980sTwenty-six-year-old Simran Preet Singh Lamba became the first enlisted Sikh soldier in the US army in more two decades to complete basic training without shedding his turban and other articles of faith.
Recruited by the Army in 2009 through the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) programme for his language skills in Punjabi and Hindi, Lamba completed basic training with his turban and unshorn hair at Fort Jackson outside Columbia and became a US citizen.
"I am thrilled to serve with my fellow soldiers and serve the United States of America," Lamba said. "I humbly believe I was able to excel in all aspects of my training. Most importantly, I was overwhelmed by the support and camaraderie I felt with my fellow soldiers and base leadership. I thank them all and look forward to my service," he added.
Present US Army policy still excludes Sikhs who maintain their turban and beard. Sikhs in the US military may maintain their religiously-mandated turban and unshorn hair only if they receive an individual exemption to do so.
Lamba was initially told that his Sikh articles of faith would likely be accommodated. But, in March 2010, his formal request for a religious accommodation was denied. Lamba appealed the decision, and his appeal was accepted in September 2010.
Contrary to the concerns of some, Lamba was able to meet all the requirements of a soldier during basic training.
He wore a helmet over a small turban during field exercises. During gas mask exercises, he successfully created a seal. He also enjoyed deep bonds with fellow soldiers and his superiors....being a human...