The Sikh Coalition Oct. 29 announced that one of its clients, Airman First Class Gurchetan Singh, graduated from Basic Military Training at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.
A1C Singh is the first Sikh Coalition client to receive a religious accommodation from the U.S. Air Force and, to the best of the coalition’s knowledge, the first Air National Guardsman to receive such an accommodation.
Upon his Oct. 29 graduation, the Sikh Indian American will receive the BMT Honor Graduate Ribbon, awarded to the top 10 percent of each training flight’s graduates who have demonstrated excellence in all phases of academic and military training, as well as a marksmanship award, the release said.
The graduate was born in India; he came to the United States in 2012 following his father, who was granted asylum.
When he took the oath and became a U.S. citizen in 2013, Singh was inspired to serve in the U.S. military in order to defend the country that had afforded him and his family such significant opportunity, the release said.
After beginning a conversation with an Air National Guard recruiter, A1C Singh contacted the Sikh Coalition for assistance in January 2019, and they submitted his religious accommodation request in April 2019. That accommodation was approved in September 2019, according to his bio.
Upon completing BMT, A1C Singh is headed to technical training to continue pursuing his specialization in Cyber Transport Systems, it said.
“The Sikh Coalition has helped me realize my career dream while ensuring that I can stay true to myself and my faith,” said A1C Singh in a statement.
“Their legal assistance means that I won’t face discrimination as I step up to serve, and I’m proud to join other trailblazing Sikhs with accommodations in the U.S. Air Force as we demonstrate that we can serve honorably while maintaining our articles of faith,” he added.
Since 2009, the Sikh Coalition has built and led a multiyear campaign to end employment discrimination in the U.S. military. These efforts secured a landmark 2017 policy change in the U.S. Army that dramatically reduced the barriers for Sikhs seeking religious accommodations—and paved a path for more than 60 Sikh U.S. service members, including at least 20 previous Sikh Coalition clients, to serve with distinction, said the release.
In 2020, the USAF enacted a similar policy change, clearing the way for even more Sikhs to serve. The coalition said it recognizes the important work of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Sikh American Veterans Alliance to secure recent historic USAF accommodations, including A1C Harpreetinder Singh Bajwa and A1C Sunjit Singh Rathour, in 2019.
Further work towards policies that allow articles of faith by the nation’s largest employer, the U.S. Department of Defense, will be critical to ending discrimination in workplaces across the country, it said.