Reversing its 23-year-old policy, the US Army has decided to allow a Sikh Officer to be in active service with his turban and beard, a Sikh advocacy group has claimed.
Though the decision in Captain Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi's case provides only a one-time accommodation, Army leadership has affirmatively indicated a willingness to review the general policy barring Sikhs from service, Sikh Coalition, a Washington-based Sikh-advocacy group, said on Friday.
Kalsi, a doctor, was recruited to join the Army's Health Professions Scholarship Programme several years ago. However he spotted his turban throughout his eight years of medical education, which included specialised Army training, attendance at Army ceremonies and work in military medical facilities.
However, after completing the programme, he was told he must remove his turbans and cut his unshorn hair to begin active duty. Kalsi then appealed to Army leadership to end its policy of excluding Sikhs from service.
"The Army's decision is a major step towards ending a 23-year-old policy that excludes Sikhs from active service," Sikh Coalition, a Washington-based Sikh-advocacy group said.
The decision lends hope to all those Sikhs who want to serve their country while observing their faith, it said.
Captain Kalsi said, "I am overjoyed by the Army's decision to allow me to serve my country. Like the many Sikhs who fought before me, I know I will serve America with honour and excellence."