Airman 1st Class (A1C) Gurchetan Singh is an observant Sikh American airman who serves with an accommodation for his articles of faith in the U.S. Air National Guard.
A1C Singh was born in 1995 in India; he came to the United States in 2012 following his father, who was granted asylum shortly after the Indian government’s violence against Sikhs in 1984. When he took the oath and became a U.S. citizen in 2013, A1C Singh was inspired to serve in the U.S. military in order to defend the country that had afforded him and his family such significant opportunity.
After graduating as a first-generation college student from the University of Washington with a B.S. in Computer Science, A1C Singh wanted to serve in the Air National Guard specifically at Camp Murray in Tacoma, Washington to put his skills to use in cybersecurity. He started the process of applying with a recruiter in June of 2018, and contacted the Sikh Coalition for assistance in January 2019; we submitted his religious accommodation request in April 2019. That accommodation was approved in September 2019, and A1C Singh signed his contract and officially enlisted on September 27, 2019.
A1C Singh is the first Sikh Coalition client to serve in the U.S. Air Force with a religious accommodation to maintain his Sikh articles of faith. Four accommodations were granted to observant Sikh airmen in the second half of 2019, and in February 2020, the Air Force joined the U.S. Army in modernizing and streamlining their policy to allow religious minorities to serve with their articles of faith, which clearly pose no obstacle to honorable and effective military service.
On October 29, 2020, A1C Singh graduated from Basic Military Training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX. On May 4, 2021, he completed his Cyber Transport Systems technical training at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, MS.
Why It Matters
Sikhs have pursued successful careers in militaries throughout the world while maintaining their articles of faith, and have served honorably in the U.S. military since the First World War; however, in 1981, the U.S. military changed its policy and banned from service observant Sikhs who wear turbans and keep unshorn hair and beards.
The Sikh Coalition’s campaign for equal opportunity in the U.S. military is modeled on similar campaigns spearheaded by our allies in the African American, LGBTQ, and women’s rights communities. The U.S. military is the nation’s largest employer. If the U.S. military finally allows observant Sikhs to serve with their articles of faith, this will set a strong, positive precedent and make it much harder for employers to discriminate against Sikhs in other industries.