Archive for the Uncategorized Category

It Seems Sheik Sikhs Seek to Serve

Posted in Military, Uncategorized on April 30, 2009 by 556caliberatheist

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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From the Foxhole…

Posted in atheism, Military, Uncategorized on April 28, 2009 by 556caliberatheist

There are few things I need to get off my chest.

First of all there is nothing I will say that hasn’t’ already been stated by greater minds and more nimble tongues than I. This notion is not shared by many other people as evidenced by millions of other blogs by people more interesting than myself millions of times over. I have only a vague idea what a Twitter is… I just don’t have anything interesting to say. So many have already said it much better than I could ever hope.

Second of all I am uneducated. I remember watching “Bill Nye the Science Guy” as a kid and one thing he said a lot that I remember is he would say “Scientist, like you and me, scientists believe…” I am not a scientist. I am a fan of science standing on the sidelines.

And finally I am an atheist and a skeptic who happens to be in that most conservative of circles, the military, more specifically the Army. I am currently stationed at a small Combat Operating Base near Sadr City Iraq. I am a Combat Medic serving in a Tanker company in a combat arms unit.

So if The Foxhole Atheist is rarely updated that is why.

That being said I do believe I may have something to offer the world: My perspective as a young uneducated atheist serving his county’s military in time of war.

Being an atheist in the military has its own set of challenges and its own set of hardships. When I first joined the Army we were asked what religion we were. This information is stamped on your dog tags in the event of your death. I wrote “None” instead of “Atheist”. It is not wise to freely advertise your personal beliefs for that my hinder advancement. As the first President George Bush stated “An atheist cannot be a true patriot” and many in the military take this to heart.

In case you are wondering, now I have several sets of dog tags which read everything from “Jedi” to “No Religious Preference” to “Atheist”.

Those of us in the military and specially those of us deployed to a combat zone have to deal with the random chance of an early grave and a hasty death. If you’ll forgive the phrase, that is the cross that we bear. That is our profession and it’s what we do. Day in and day out you risk your neck. Our wives and sweethearts back home also understand the risk of that dreaded phone call. It’s common for those not typically religious to turn to religion as a safety net or to hedge their bets in case of premature demise. That is what the phrase “There are not atheists in foxholes” is implied to mean.

When the lead is flying there are not politics. I may not agree with the judgments of the Men in Suits that sent me here but I need to get out alive and make sure the other men in my unit do likewise. Democrat or Republican don’t mean a thing to an IED and the suicide bomber does not distinguish nor does he/she have any prejudices against either. They are both Infidels to him/her. To the enemies that which we fight be it whatever name we choose for them, be it Haji (slightly offensive) or Sand Nigger (grossly offensive) or insurgent (misleading to say the least, boldfaced lie to some), this is a religious war. That is the chief difference between this enemy and most others my country has faced. He is not following orders from a legitimate military authority. He is following orders from what he believes is the most supreme authority in the universe. Some of the Christians I serve with also hold this same belief, names of the deities changed. To some on both sides, it’s a modern day Crusade.

And here I am, the Foxhole Atheist caught in the middle of it all.

Private First Class Paul K. Brickey 68W Combat Medic

Charlie Mike, Roger Out.