FORT JACKSON, S.C. (AP) — The U.S. Army has graduated its first Sikh enlisted man in a generation after granting a rare religious exemption for his turban and beard because the military needs his language skills.
The turban, unshorn hair and beard are tenets of the Sikh religion. Army policies since 1984 had effectively prevented Sikhs from enlisting by barring those items.
Spc. Simran Lamba was recruited under a special program seeking speakers of two Indian languages, Hindi and Punjabi. The 26-year Indian immigrant from New Delhi completed basic training Wednesday at Fort Jackson outside Columbia and became a U.S. citizen.
He will be a combat medic.
The Army has two Sikhs who became medical officers this year, but it hasn’t had one in the enlisted ranks.