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USA Army Made Exception For Future Medic


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Green smoke swirled through a medical tent after a blast shook the ground at Forward Operating Base Courage.

The blast spurred combat medics into team mode at the dusty compound where yells for catheters, blood pressure and pulse readings echoed across the grounds.

“We got casualties at the east gate!” a medic screamed. “Let's go soldiers, let's go!” “Hurry up, doc,” a patient screamed. “Hurry up!”

Spec. Simran Preet Singh Lamba scribbled several injuries in his card-sized notebook, passing the data to a medic who collected casualty reports.

“Good job, Lamba,” the soldier said.

“I'm trying,” he said, as the controlled chaos moved around him.

Lamba, 27, and his unit were taking part in a 10-day field training exercise at Camp Bullis, where they faced realistic scenarios as they would in a real combat zone, and he was at ease. This is what he'd wanted to do since he was a small boy in New Delhi, where his parents snapped photos of him rendering crisp salutes in a military uniform.

Lamba is the first Sikh enlisted soldier to serve in the U.S. Army since 1984. He is due to graduate from the combat medic training course at Fort Sam Houston and then report to a military intelligence battalion at Fort Lewis, Wash., where he will put his expertise in the Punjabi and Hindi languages to use.

He is the third turbaned and bearded Sikh to join the Army after the reversal of a 30-year-old rule that excluded Sikhs from military service.

He came to America in 2006 and earned a master's degree in structural engineering at New York University three years later, but he wanted more than a 9-to-5 job.

He was inspired to enlist in the Army after Capt. Tejdeep Singh Rattan and Capt. Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi, both Sikh officers, were allowed to practice their religion. The Army had banned wearing “conspicuous items of faith” starting in 1984.

The Army recruited Lamba in 2009 through the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program for his language fluency.

He said he is like any other American trying to fight for the country.

“I feel no one should have to choose between their faith and service to their country,” Lamba said. “I feel great that the Army granted me this religious accommodation to serve with my faith. The life of a Sikh is to serve other people; this will help young Sikhs who want to join to see that if I do my job, then obviously then they can, too.”

The military initially denied his request for religious accommodation that would allow him to follow the Sikh articles of faith, which include wearing a dastaar, or turban, and unshorn beard and hair.

He appealed the decision through the Sikh Coalition, an organization dedicated to advocating for Sikhs to freely practice their faith.

The Army had reversed its stand after six U.S. senators and 43 members of the House of Representatives signed a letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on behalf of Rattan and Kalsi, but Lamba had to apply for his own exception.

According to an article in the Fort Sam Houston News Leader, Maj. Gen. Gina Farrisee said the Army decided that the men's cases “would not interfere with unit readiness, individual readiness, unit cohesion, morale, discipline, safety and/or health.”

Pvt. Aaron Long, 26, Lamba's battle buddy, said he respects his friend's commitment and attended a service at a local Sikh temple with him to learn more about his culture.

“Every morning he has to wake up, tie up his hair, beard and turban,” Long said. “It takes a long time to do all that and he's still able to do that without any problem; I think it's pretty impressive he can do that.”

“My hair and beard are like my right hand,” Lamba said. “Like an extension of my body.”

Sgt. 1st Class Amanda Dodd said when Lamba reported to the unit, he gave a cultural awareness class about his religion and always shared information.

“He's first and foremost a soldier. We've never treated him different,” Dodd said. “He doesn't look at it like he deserves special treatment. He actually wants to be like everyone else.”

Read more: http://www.mysanantonio.com/communi...on-for-future-medic-1307113.php#ixzz1HktyyLFy


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