Army Relents on Beard and Turban for a Sikh Officer- Gives Waiver

 In Military

Army Relents on Beard and Turban for a Sikh Officer- Gives Waiver

Army Capt. Simratpal Singh filed a lawsuit last month to seek an injunction against the Army for having him take special test to prove that he could safely wear a helmet and gas mask with a beard and turban. Assistant Secretary of the Army Deborah Wada sent a memorandum to him on March 30, stating that the she had granted him a religious waiver, and no further testing was necessary.

She put a caveat in the waiver:

“I may withdraw or limit the scope of your accommodation for reasons of military necessity, including if I cannot confirm that Army protective equipment (to include [Army combat helmet and protective mask) will provide you the intended degree of protection” required for mission.

I intend to reevaluate this accommodation in one year and may reevaluate it earlier based upon military necessity if you must be assigned to another unit. If circumstances require that you be directed to comply fully with [Army uniform and personal grooming standards] you should be prepared to do so.” Deborah Wada, Assistant Secretary of the Army


Captain Singh – Facebook photo

According to, Singh filed the lawsuit on Feb 29, after the Army ordered him to undergo tests at Aberdeen Proving Ground to make sure his beard and turban would not obstruct  protective gear.

Uniform means “not changing in form or character; remaining the same in all cases and at all times.”

Sikhs have been known to be fierce fighters. They are Indian, not Muslim. Capt. Singh already has served 10 years in the Army, completed Ranger School, and earned a Bronze Star in Afghanistan. He has proven that he is willing to give his life for his country.

While at West Point, he shaved his beard and cut his hair, since he did not have the waiver.  He says he is “proud” to be an American and an Army Captain.

There are three other Sikhs who will attend Basic Training in May. What this decision will mean for them or for that matter anyone else in the military is unknown.

Is this a good thing? Or could it create havoc with other religions such as Islam, for example? The definition of uniform is listed above. By making exceptions to the rules, is the Army caving to something that could come back to bite them hard in the future?

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