- The Washington Times - Friday, April 1, 2016

A Sikh-American Army officer and combat veteran will be allowed to serve with long hair, a beard and a turban in keeping with his Sikh faith, the U.S. military announced Friday.

The Army granted Capt. Simratpal Singh a long-term religious accommodation, making him the first active duty Sikh soldier to be approved to dress in accordance with his religion while actively serving.

“My military service continues to fulfill a lifelong dream,” he said in a statement posted by the Sikh Coalition. “My faith, like many of the soldiers I work with, is an integral part of who I am. I am thankful that I no longer have to make the choice between faith and service to our nation.”

Capt. Singh will continue in his battalion operations staff position at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

Capt. Singh graduated from the West Point Academy in 2010 but was then forced to chose between his religion and his career. Following failed attempts to obtain an accommodation for his religious articles, Capt. Singh cut his hair and shaved his beard to serve in the U.S. military.

Capt. Singh went on the complete the rigorous Army Ranger School and a tour in Afghanistan where he earned a Bronze Star medal.

Captain Singh’s case is a painful study in the onerous hurdles for observant Sikh Americans who want to serve their country,” Amandeep Sidhu, partner at McDermott Will & Emery, said in a statement. “With this historic accommodation, we hope that the U.S. military will finally move past protracted, case-by-case religious accommodations and recognize that the time for permanent policy change is now.”

While able to wear his turban and grow a beard, the Army has still placed some restrictions on Capt. Singh’s religious articles.

His turban must be black or camouflage, depending on the situation. His beard must be rolled or tied to no longer than two inches in garrison, or one inch when on the field, and his hair cannot cover his ears, eyebrows or touch his uniform’s collar, The Washington Examiner reported.

The Army command will provide quarterly assessments of the new accommodation, and it will be reviewed in a year by Debra Wada, assistant secretary of the Army.

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