In an historic decision, the Army has decided to allow Capt. Simratpal Singh to wear a turban and unshorn beard and hair while in uniform as required by his Sikh faith.
In December, Singh had received a temporary accommodation to wear the turban while in uniform. Now he will be allowed to wear it during his active duty service with the Army Corps of Engineers.
Singh is a 2010 West Point graduate, a combat veteran with a tour in Afghanistan and has successfully completed Army Ranger School. But throughout his Army career he has served on active duty but without the long hair and beard required by the Sikh Articles of Faith.
In October, 2015 he requested an accommodation from Army grooming standards that do not allow beards and turbans to be worn as part of the Army uniform.
In a memo obtained by ABC News, Debra S. Wada, the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs writes “I grant your request for an exception to Army personal appearance and grooming standards, subject to the limitations described below.
“While assigned or performing non-hazardous duties, you may wear a beard, turban, and uncut hair in a neat and conservative manner that presents a professional and well-groomed appearance. The bulk of your hair, beard, or turban may not be such that it impairs your ability to wear the Army Combat Helmet (ACH) or other protective equipment or impedes your ability to operate your assigned weapon, military equipment or machinery,” the memo says.
Wada writes that she will assess the decision in a year’s time or less if needed.
The decision will not affect three other Sikh-American soldiers who recently sued for the right to wear turbans as part of their military uniform.
“My military service continues to fulfill a lifelong dream,” said Singh in a statement from the Sikh Coalition. “My faith, like many of the soldiers I work with, is an integral part of who I am. I am thankful that I no longer have to make the choice between faith and service to our nation.”
Singh is currently assigned to an engineering battalion based at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.