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Sikh American Man Graduates From Marine Recruit Training With Articles of Faith

Sikh American Man Graduates From Marine Recruit Training With Articles of Faith

  • The accommodation comes after years of legal battle and a lawsuit filed by Private First Class (PFC) Jaskirat Singh and three others , to allow them to serve openly with their turbans and beards at all times.

A Sikh American man made history earlier this month for graduating from the U.S. Marine Corps Recruit Training in San Diego, California. Private First Class (PFC) Jaskirat Singh completed his training with “a historic accommodation allowing him to maintain his Sikh articles of faith throughout,” the Sikh Coalition announced on April 11. Singh graduated as an 0311 military occupational specialty, or infantryman. In the weeks ahead, he will report to his assigned MOS school to continue his Marine Corps training.

In the Sikh Coalition press release, Singh said he is “honored” to serve his country in the Marine Corps, and “proud” that he was able to do so while “respecting” his Sikh faith.” He hopes his graduation “sends a clear message to other young Sikhs who are considering military service: Your faith does not have to be a barrier to any career.” He told that he did not experience “any issues in training,” and had “no problem creating a seal for his gas mask.”

Maj. Joshua Pena, a spokesman for the Marine Corps Training and Education Command, told that Singh “did really well.” He said the young recruit was “a squad leader throughout training, and met all the standards.” Singh is “a Marine,” he told the website that provides news and information about the United States military, adding that “we’re really excited to see what he does with his career.”

Giselle Klapper, Deputy Legal Director of the Sikh Coalition said in the press release that “Singh’s determination and perseverance has paid off.” She said his achievement is “yet another testament to the simple fact that no one should be made to choose between any career and their religious beliefs.”

Lieutenant Colonel Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi, founder of the Sikh American Veterans Alliance told the Sikh Coalition that “as a Sikh man who fought for a first-in-a-generation religious accommodation in the U.S. Army,” he has “immense admiration for PFC Singh’s achievement.” He stressed the importance of “recruiting and retaining talent from all walks of life, including communities like our own, as our Armed Forces continue to rise to the challenges of the 21st century.” noted that “Singh’s accomplishment represents an important step in years-long negotiations between the Sikh Coalition and the Marine Corps.”  In April 2022, Singh, along with two other Sikh recruits — Milaap Singh Chahal and Aekash Singh — and Capt. Sukhbir Singh Toor, filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Marine Corps in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, to allow them to serve openly with their turbans and beards at all times.

Late last year, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals granted Singh a preliminary injunction and ruled that the Marine Corps must allow Sikhs to wear their hair and beards in uniform, including at recruit training. Singh was sent to boot camp in May 2023, the coalition said. 

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However, the religious exemption came with a caveat. Jaskirat Singh and Toor could wear a turban in daily dress at normal duty stations, but they had “to remove the turban and beard whenever assigned to a ceremonial unit and to shave the beard when deployed and receiving Hostile Fire Pay or Imminent Danger Pay,” according to the Sikh Coalition.

According to, “this prohibition represents a painful thorn for Sikhs who serve in the military, especially for Marines.” In 2011, Marine Cpl. Gurpreet Singh was killed in action while serving in Helmand province, Afghanistan. “He was made to shave his beard and cut his hair on that deployment, and he died without being able to wear important articles of faith.”

(Photo credit: Mark Abramson via the Sikh Coalition)

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