The United States Air Force has updated its dress code to make it easier for personnel to wear turbans, beards, unshorn hair, and hijabs.
While Sikhs and Muslims serving in the Air Force had been able to apply for religious accommodations in the past, the process was lengthy and complicated, with only a handful ever being granted.
Under the new guidelines, service members can apply for religious accommodation to wear turbans, beards, unshorn hair and hijabs. They can expect to be approved within 30 days as long as their appearance is "neat and conservative" and the religious garments do not interfere with the operation of weaponry of equipment.
Some limited cases may take up to 60 days for approval. Once approved, the accommodation will follow them for their entire career.
Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director for the Council of American-Islamic Relations, told CNN that they support the new guidelines, saying: "We support these new guidelines as a step toward religious accommodation and inclusion for military personnel of all faiths."
Giselle Klapper of the Sikh Coalition said that while the decision was a move in the right direction, more still had to be done:
"Sikhs have served honorably and capably in the U.S. Armed Forces and other militaries around the world, and while we are eager for a blanket proclamation that all observant Sikh Americans can serve in every branch of the military without seeking accommodations, this policy clarification is a great step forward towards ensuring equality of opportunity and religious freedom in the Air Force."
Sikh American Veterans Alliance President Kamal Singh Kalsi called on the Department of Defense to introduce a broader policy that would apply to all branches of the military:
"The Department of Defense should have a consistent and department wide policy on religious accommodation. Those who are committed and qualified to serve our country in uniform should be able to do so in a more streamlined and efficient manner."
Last June, Airman 1st Class Harpreetinder Singh Bajwa became the first active duty airman to be granted religious accommodation to serve with a turban and beard. The process took him nearly six months.
Airmen 1st Class Sunjit Singh Rathour and Jaspreet Singh also received accommodations last year. While in 2018, Maysaa Ouza became the first officer in the Air Force's Judge Advocate General's Corp to be granted an accommodation to wear a hijab.