- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The Air Force has granted its first ever religious accommodation beard waiver to a Muslim airman.

Staff Sgt. Abdul Rahman Gaitan had to wait four years before his request for a beard waiver was answered, but the airman with 821st Contingency Response Squadron at Travis Air Force Base, California, finally heard back.

An Air Force press release noted that he needed approval from his “unit commander, base chaplain, installation commander up to the Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff, Personnel Division,” Air Force Times reported Tuesday.

Staff Sgt. Abdul Rahman Gaitan told the newspaper that some military personnel asked if he was a terrorist when he first began growing his beard. Some of his concerns eased, however, after speaking with the base’s leadership.

“I was called into [my commander’s] office with the chief and first sergeant waiting for me,” he told Air Force Times. “His look, tone, words and posture were shouting at me, ‘Don’t worry, we have your back.’ … I walked out of there with a feeling I had never felt as a Hispanic Muslim Airman. I finally felt like I was fully part of the Air Force family, and that my peers and my leadership would fight to protect me.”

The airman, who was raised Catholic, said his interest in Islam first piqued when he was stationed in Izmir, Turkey. He ultimately converted after visiting a mosque in Hawaii.

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