Second Lt. Anmol Narang, a Georgia native, became the first observant woman Sikh cadet to successfully graduate from the country’s military academy.
WASHINGTON – The United States Military Academy at West Point graduated its first observant Sikh cadet last Saturday.
Second Lt. Anmol Narang, a Georgia native, became the first observant woman Sikh cadet to successfully graduate from the country’s military academy, reported the Hill Times.
“I am excited and honored to be fulfilling my dream of graduating from West Point tomorrow,” Narang said in a statement from the Sikh Coalition, nonprofit that works to protect the constitutional right to practice faith without fear.
“The confidence and support of my community back home in Georgia has been deeply meaningful to me, and I am humbled that in reaching this goal, I am showing other Sikh Americans that any career path is possible for anyone willing to rise to the challenge.”
After she completes her Basic Officer Leadership Course at Fort Sill in Lawton, Okla., she will stationed in Okinawa, Japan, starting in January.
In 1987, Congress passed a law that prohibited Sikhs and other religious communities from maintaining their articles of faith while serving in the military.
Thirty years later, in 2017, after Army Capt. Simratpal Singh sued for his right to be able to maintain his articles while serving, the Army updated its policy, streamlining the accommodation process for Sikh troops.
“I am immensely proud of [2nd Lt.] Narang for seeing her goal through and, in doing so, breaking a barrier for any Sikh American who wishes to serve,” Singh, who is a family friend of Narang, said in the statement. “The broader acceptance of Sikh servicemembers among all of the service branches, as well as in top tier leadership spaces like West Point, will continue to benefit not just the rights of religious minority individuals, but the strength and diversity of the U.S. military.”
Around 1,100 cadets will receive their diplomas on Saturday. Narang is one of 230 women in the graduating class. While West Point has made growing its diversity a point of emphasis in recent years, the academy is still predominantly white and male. The 2020 graduating class is 12 percent black, 9 percent Asian, 9 percent Latino and less than 1 percent Native American.
There are two other male Sikh cadets at the academy behind Narang. Both were granted religious accommodations, allowing them to grow facial hair and wear turbans while on campus. Narang, whose hair goes to her knees, is able put her hair into a bun which meets West Point’s strict guideline for women’s hair.
When asked by The New York Times about President Trump giving the commencement speech at the academy’s graduation ceremony she deferred, saying that she would “prefer to not talk about that.”
Courtesy Hill Times