It Seems Sheik Sikhs Seek to Serve

I am at an isolated COB so I don’t get a hold of a paper regularly. The April 15th issue of the Stars and Stripes (which I received on the 30th) had an interesting story on the front page:

“Asking to Serve; Sikhs want US Army to waive dress and appearance regulations”

Seems that members of the Sikh Coalition held a press conference at the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington VA. They would like to serve in the US Army along with their long hair, beards and turbans.

Dress right dress and uniformity is key right? Well it appears that the US Army has in the past allowed Sikhs to serve, beard and turbans included.

“The Pentagon has informed two Sikh personnel in the Army Reserves, a doctor and a dentist that they must remove their turbans and cut their hair when called into regular Army service later this year”

The story goes on:

“Capt. Kamaaljeet S. Kalsi said the Army recruiters who approached him during his first year of medical school in 2001 said they wanted him, and his beard and his turban and long hair to serve in the medical corps.”

The Army banned turbans in 1980 but grandfathered those already serving and have made few exceptions.

“”The Army does not accommodate the exceptions for personal grooming standards for religious reasons” said Army spokesman Lt. Col Nathan Banks”

Just like they do not accommodate a Rastafarian the right to smoke the wisdom weed either. The Sikhs are not being picked on, this is a long standing policy.

OK… let’s think about this a little… There’s a reason you cannot have a beard in the regular US Army. If you have a beard your protective mask will not be airtight. Not matter how bitching your beard is you are done for in the admittedly unlikely event of a Nuclear, Radiological, Biological or Chemical attack. Again, this has not been a serious threat in some years but if anyone can remember back to the summer of 2007 the Iraqi insurgents toyed around with chlorine laden IEDs against coalition personnel. Unlikely but still, a possibility.

Would they be taking off their turbans when they roll outside the wire in order to don the latest in tactical fashion, the Advanced Combat Helmet? Or could they just try to shove the whole turban under the helmet? I guess if you still wanted an indirect attachment to your turban you could glue another turban on the top of the helmet but this may hinder any use of their Night Vision Goggles and make you a fantastic sniper target. I don’t get it, the turban would at some point have to come off and whatever magical protective powers granted to the wearer be damned.

Also something else that crossed my mind: Could you imagine going to Basic with a turban? I shutter to think what that would be like.

It is true that a “Shaving Profile” can be issued if you have medical problems with regular shaving but facial hair must be trimmed to about 1/8th of an inch. As a medic I have written dozens of these for various reasons.

“I am willing to lay down my life for America. In return I ask only that my country respect my faith. My turban and beard are not an option – they are an intrinsic part of me” Said Rattan

So… you are quite ready and willing to die for your country, the supreme sacrifice… but not cut your hair like every other Army recruit does? What the hell makes you so special? I had a fabulous rockabilly pompadour when I joined and I almost wept when I saw it limply fall to my feet on an ever growing pile of grease and hair. I could argue that was a part of my culture so was that wrong? No, it wasn’t. No matter how greasy and cool it may have been it does not meet the standard ask of you by the Army.

This again is where religion has granted itself a thoroughly undeserved “No Fly Zone” around it and demands that you automatically respect and accommodate it. Asking you to cut your hair and to observe the same standards as the rest of the Army is not disrespecting your belief system, whatever your that may be. The Army already breaks it’s shins trying to be as religiously accommodating as possible with the exception of the secular belief systems. Kosher MRE’s are available and any religious head gear that does not interfere with the proper wear of the uniform is authorized. So where do we draw the line?

One of the Army Values is Selfless Service. I gave up the majority of my civil liberties to protect the civil liberties of others. One of those civil liberties was my personal hair style. If these Sikhs truly wish to serve it’s very easy: Shave and a haircut. If they are not willing to make that compromise then maybe they are not ready to become soldiers. I would welcome anyone that wants to join the Army to serve so long as they meet the standards. The standards may not be completely perfect (I could go on for hours about the PT test) but they remain standards none the less.

Private First Class Paul K. Brickey 68W Combat Medic

Charlie Mike, Roger Out

Edit: The whole article can be found here:

http://www.stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=62026Rally at Arlington VA.

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3 Responses to “It Seems Sheik Sikhs Seek to Serve”

  1. Kathleen Says:

    Great blog. Count me in as a regular reader.

  2. Michael Pantazis Says:

    Outstanding bit of writing!

  3. Sikhs fought hard and kicked ass in WWI and II. At one point they made up 20% of the British Army. 83,005 gave their lives, 109,045 injured during WWI and II. Britain’s highest military honor is the Victoria Cross. The Sikh regiments earned shit loads of them, the most per capita. US Army grooming regs were specifically changed back then to accommodate Sikhs.

    Guess their turbans and beards were just fine back then.

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