23-year-old woman first observant Sikh to graduate from West Point military academy

Anmol Narang


The US Military Academy at West Point graduated its first observant Sikh woman on Saturday.

Second Lt. Anmol Narang, 23, a second-generation immigrant born and raised in Roswell, Georgia, became the first observant Sikh cadet to complete the nation’s military academy’s education and training.

“I am excited and honored to be fulfilling my dream of graduating from West Point tomorrow,” Narang said in a statement released by the nonprofit the Sikh Coalition, which works to protect Sikh’s Constitutional rights. “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.”

Narang, whose maternal grandfather’s had a career in the Indian Army, follows religious practices including Kesh, which calls for letting one’s hair grow naturally without cutting it.

“Being a Sikh woman is a very important part of my identity and if my experience can play a small role in being an inspiration for others, regardless of career field, that will be wonderful,” she told CNN.

Narang told CNN she hopes her efforts to represent her religion and community will encourage Americans to learn more about the Sikh faith, the fifth largest religion in the world.

She is scheduled to complete her Basic Officer Leadership Course at Fort Sill in Lawton, Okla., and then be stationed in Okinawa, Japan, starting in January.

Other Sikhs have graduated from West Point, but Narang is the first observant Sikh to have graduated from the military academy, according to the Sikh Coalition.

In 1987, Congress passed a law prohibiting various religious communities, including Sikhs, from practicing certain articles of their faith while serving in the military. Thirty years later, in 2017, fter Army Capt. Simratpal Singh sued for his right to be able to practice core tenets of their face, including unshaven hair and turbans, and the Army updated its rules governing religious liberties, streamlining the accommodation process for Sikh troops.

“I am immensely proud of (Second Lieutenant) Narang for seeing her goal through and, in doing so, breaking a barrier for any Sikh American who wishes to serve,” Singh said in a statement this week. “The broader acceptance of Sikh service members 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 US military.”

Approximately 1,100 cadets received their diplomas on Saturday.


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