First turbaned Sikh congratulated on completing Army training

Sikh US officer

An influential lawmaker from New York congratulated Captain Tejdeep Singh Rattan for graduating from the Army Officer Course, making him the first turbaned Sikh officer to complete basic training in over two decades.

"Cpt Rattan's achievement today underscores the importance of preserving diversity in our armed forces, and is a testament to one of the most fundamental values-- freedom of religion-- upon which our nation was founded and which makes the US a beacon of hope and liberty throughout the world," Democratic Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney from New York said.

"I'm proud that Cpt Rattan is continuing in the tradition of Sikh-Americans over the decades. Sikhs fought bravely in defence of our nation in both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, and during peacetime. I wholeheartedly congratulate him on this auspicious occasion," Maloney said in her brief speech on the floor of the US House of Representatives.

Captain Rattan was recruited and commissioned by the US Army in 2006 as a part of the Health Professionals Scholarship Program (HPSP).

After completing his final year of dental school, he joined the US Army Officer Basic Course.

However, after completing his education, he was told that he must remove his religiously-mandated turban and unshorn hair before he began active duty.

Last April, he submitted a request to the Army asking that he be allowed to maintain his turban and beard while serving the Army. In December, the Army granted his request for accommodation.

In fact, Maloney led a number of House and Senate colleagues in sending letters to the Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, requesting that the accommodations be made for Captain Rattan and all other Sikh Americans who wish to serve to preserve their "articles of faith" turban, long hair and beards.

Speaking on the floor of the House, Maloney said Capt Rattan was assured by Army recruiters that his articles of faith would be accommodated, only to later be informed that he must abandon his Sikh articles of faith in order to continue his duties as an Army officer.

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