A Sikh airman made history when the U.S. Air Force granted him permission to wear a turban, beard and unshorn hair.
Harpreetinder Singh Bajwa, an active duty crew chief at McChord Air Force Base near Lakewood, Washington, confirmed in a statement released Thursday by the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund that he was given a religious accommodation, meaning he is partially exempt from the grooming and dress code that once prevented him from fully expressing his faith.
"I'm overjoyed that the Air Force has granted my religious accommodation," he said. "Today, I feel that my country has embraced my Sikh heritage, and I will be forever grateful for this opportunity."
Born to an immigrant family, Bajwa joined the Air Force as a first-generation American in 2017. However, at the time, he was required to cut his hair and maintain a clean shave, which went against his Sikh beliefs. He then learned about accommodations granted by the U.S. Army to Sikh service members in addition to one granted to Muslim Air Force Cpt. Maysaa Ouza, a Judge Advocate General Corps officer who was permitted to wear a hijab in 2018 with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union.