Joint Base Airman becomes 3rd in U.S. Approved for Uniform Turban
JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST — A military man in New Jersey is just the third Airman in the entire U.S. Air Force authorized to wear a turban as part of his regulated uniform.
Airman 1st Class Jaspreet Singh, of the 87th Logistics Readiness Squadron fire truck and refueling maintenance apprentice, recently received approval to wear an Operational Camouflage Pattern turban after nearly a year of waiting.
“For 17 years of my life I wore a turban alongside my dad,” Singh said in a written statement.
Singh, who was born in India and moved to the United States as a child, said he joined the Air Force at the age of 17 knowing that he would have to sacrifice wearing his turban to follow Air Force standards.
When he enlisted almost two years ago and went through Basic Military Training, Singh had his hair cut for the first time in his life.
Singh said he spoke to a chaplain the first chance he had to see what he would be allowed to do under religious accommodation.
“It’s more about identity for me,” Singh said. “When I got that first haircut [in BMT] I felt like I lost everything. Losing that made me realize that I don’t want to lose who I am.”
Religious accommodation requires that an Airman’s expression of sincerely held beliefs must be respected as long as it does not have an adverse effect on mission accomplishment.
“People are learning; it’s diversifying the Air Force itself,” Singh said. “Me wearing a turban will make people more aware of what a Sikh is.”
The Air Force also granted permission for two other Airmen to wear a turban and beard earlier this year.
In the U.S. Army, Sikhs and conservative Muslim women also can seek approval to wear religious head coverings along with their uniforms, under a 2017 directive, as reported by the Army Times.
The U.S. Navy also allows religious headgear as part of uniform dress, for "personnel with an approved religious accommodation."