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First Enlisted Sikh Soldier Moves Forward With Army Career
Sikhs Anticipate Army Policy Change

By Anju Kaur, SikhNN staff writer, Washington Bureau
Posted: Monday, December 06, 2010 | 08:10 pm

Gallery

Photo Source: Sikh Coalition

Simran Preet Singh at his basic-training graduation on Nov. 10.

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Photo Source: Sikh Coalition

Simran Preet Singh, saluting indoors.

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Photo Source: Sikh Coalition

Simran Preet Singh graduates with honors.

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Photo Source: Sikh Coalition

Simran Preet Singh, saluting on a boat.

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Photo Source: Sikh Coalition

Simran Preet Singh (middle) at his basic-training graduation on Nov. 10. Captain Kalmaljeet Singh Kalsi on the left and Amardeep Singh of the Sikh Coalition, on the far right.

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Photo Source: Sikh Coalition

Simran Preet Singh (left) in a double salute.

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Photo Source: Sikh Coalition

Simran Preet Singh at his basic-training graduation on Nov. 10.

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Photo Source: Sikh Coalition

Simran Preet Singh, saluting with his sister.

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Photo Source: Sikh Coalition

Simran Preet Singh, saluting with his family.

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As a child he would annoy his mother by saluting in nearly every family photo. After finishing his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in India, he initially thought he would join the Indian Air Force. But he chose to come to America.

His parents are very proud and very happy, he said. They did not come from Delhi for his graduation because he only had one day off. But he has hopes for next year’s graduation when he will have more free time.

Simran Preet Singh is planning to stay a while in the Army, taking advantage of all the free education that the Army has to offer.

“I want all kinds of knowledge,” he said.

“Our arguments were theoretical from their perspective,” Amardeep Singh said. Now they have proof of concept.

The Army has all the details about the Sikh way of life. When Simran Preet Singh first appeared at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, for basic training, his superiors asked to see his dastaar and patkaa (under-turban). They asked him which jell he used for his dhaaree (beard), and if he used pins or a thaagaa (thick thread) to tie it. And, where do we buy turbans?

The Army also knows every military scenario involving Sikhs, he said. They asked Simran Preet Singh if he were injured and brought to surgery, would he object having his hair shaved?

On Guru Nanak’s Prakash Divaas last month, he was allowed to go off post to attend the gurpurab, Simran Preet Singh said. The chaplain and another officer accompanied him. They already knew about the gurdwara and the services, before they went.

“We all enjoyed the services,” he said. All three had langar. They had a “positive attitude.”

The Army is forced to know these things because of the accommodation, Amardeep Singh added.

“Everything is carefully thought through, very minute detail you can image,” he said. “All questions have been answered. It’s not theory anymore.”
The coalition is continuing to find the right clients to poke holes in the Army’s current policy of exclusion.

“If we carve out enough exceptions, the exception will swallow the rule,” he said. “We have not had a post-Lamba sit down (with the Army). That’s next on the agenda.

“We’re hoping for a change of policy sometime next year.”

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