SAN ANTONIO (KTSA News) – A New York man has become the first Sikh to graduate from basic training and advanced technical training wearing a beard and a turban.
Sunjit Rathour graduated from Security Forces training at Joint Base San Antonio Lackland Thursday wearing a special made turban and beard in compliance with his Sikh religious beliefs.
“As Sunjit’s experience demonstrates, recruits with religious accommodations are able to undertake the same training as other airmen,” said Heather Weaver, senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union. “We hope that the other branches of the military will follow in the footsteps of the Army and the Air Force by granting similar accommodations to those who request them.”
Earlier this year, the ACLU helped A1C Harpreetinder Singh Bajwa at McChord Air Force Base in Washington obtain a religious accommodation for his Sikh religious practice, but Rathour is the first authorized by the Air Force to wear the turban immediately upon enlistment and during the Air Force’s training programs.
“I’m thrilled that the Air Force gave me the opportunity to complete both basic and technical training with a religious accommodation,” Rathour said in a press release from the ACLU. “My fellow airmen and superiors have been nothing but supportive, and I look forward to continuing my service for years to come.”
He also received assistance from the Sikh American Veterans Alliance in obtaining his religious accommodation.
“Being able to serve your country is a point of pride for many Sikhs, “said Lt. Colonel Kamal Singh Kalsi, president of SAVA.
Kalsi was one of the first Sikh service members to receive a religious accommodation from the Army.
“It was an honor to attend A1C Rathour’s basic training and AIT graduation ceremonies and to see him make history as the first Sikh to complete basic and technical training in the Air Force while wearing a turban, beard, and unshorn hair,” said Kalsi.