Another Major Step Forward to Full Acceptance of Sikhs in US Army
(Columbia, SC) November 11, 2010 – Another major barrier fell today in the campaign to end the U.S. military’s ban on Sikh service. To great fanfare, Simran Preet Singh Lamba became the first enlisted Sikh soldierin more than two decades to complete basic training while maintaining his turban and unshorn hair.
Enlisted soldiers are the U.S. Army’s “new recruits” who are below the rank of an officer. Over the past,m year two Sikh commissioned officers graduated. All the Sikh graduates were represented by the law firm of McDermott Will & Emery LLP and the Sikh Coalition. Amandeep Singh Sidhu, Esq. led the McDermott Will, & Emery team on the case.
“I am thrilled to serve with my fellow soldiers and serve the United States of America,” said Simran Preet Singh Lamba. “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.”
Mr. Lamba was recruited by the Army in 2009 through the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program for his language skills in Punjabi and Hindi. His Army recruiter could not guarantee that his Sikh articles of faith would be accommodated. Thus, Lamba filed a formal request for accommodation with the assistance of the Sikh Coalition and McDermott Will & Emery LLP.
Contrary to the concerns of some, Mr. Lamba was able to meet all the requirements of a solider during basic training. He wore a helmet over a small turban during field exercises. During gas mask exercises, he successfully created a seal.
Important Individual Victory But Sikhs Still Generally Excluded from Army
Present Army policy still excludes Sikhs who maintain their turban and beard. Sikhs in the U.S. military may maintain their articles of faith only if they receive an individual exemption to do so.
Nevertheless, the past year has seen welcome progress in the campaign to restore Sikh service in the U.S. military. In March, Captain Tejdeep Singh Rattan, a dentist, became the first Sikh commissioned officer to complete basic training in more than two decades. In September,Captain Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi, a physician, became the second Sikh commissioned officer to complete basic training.
It is the intention of the Sikh Coalition to continue its campaign to ensure every Sikh can freely join the U.S. military, if they so choose. Over the coming weeks and months we will continue engaging policymakers and the US military in an effort to end its ban on Sikh military service.