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A Conversation With Anmol Narang, First Observant Sikh Woman to Graduate From West Point

The 23-year-old Georgia native hopes to inspire young Sikh American girls to embark on a career path of their choice.

As a young girl growing up in Roswell, Georgia, Anmol Narang was fascinated by the stories her maternal grandfather, a veteran of the Indian Army, would tell her. She found them “very fascinating.” 

Gradually, Narang began taking interest in the Army. “The idea of a career in the Army seemed appealing, but I didn’t know then how to make it a part of my life,” she says. 

Fast forward a little over a decade, and Narang, 23, is creating history, by becoming the first observant Sikh and first observant Sikh woman to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy. 

The newly minted second lieutenant was with her family, driving back from her graduation at West Point on June 13, as she spoke to American Kahani about her four years at the academy, what it means to make history and her future plans. 

“I am excited and honored to be fulfilling my dream of graduating from West Point” she says. “The confidence and support of my community back home in Georgia has been deeply meaningful to me, and I am humbled in reaching this goal.”...

...Narang says she never feel discriminated or isolated during her four years at West Point, despite being a minority on campus. She told the Sikh Coalition that “in some ways, it was easier to fit in as a female Sikh cadet than if she had been a man.” 

There were however “a few South Asian Americans” in her graduating class she says. 

There were a few personal challenges she had to overcome, one of them being her hair. She says it took some practice to pin a bun tight enough to meet the Army requirements. According to U.S. Army Regulation 670-1,  women can wear their hair in a bun size of 3 1/2 inches wide by 2 inches deep.

She did not need any religious accommodation.

Although Narang is the first observant Sikh to graduate from the academy, she is not the first Sikh cadet to graduate from there.

In 2016, U.S. Army Captain (CPT) Simratpal Singh filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Army for his  right to maintain his articles of faith in uniform. The Sikh Coalition says that this lawsuit bought  “a critical change in the Army’s accommodations policy in 2017,” ensuring regions accommodations for Sikh soldiers would stay with them throughout their career.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Air Force implemented a similarly updated policy

The Sikh Coalition says that since the Army and the Air Force changed their policies, “there are at least 60 observant Sikhs serving in those two branches of the military.” Meanwhile, it notes that “the work continues to ensure equality of opportunity for Sikhs in the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.”

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