Air Force grants first beard waiver to Muslim airman
WASHINGTON — The Air Force has quietly approved a request by a Muslim airman to grow a beard, marking the service’s first such religious accommodation for a follower of Islam, Air Force officials said Tuesday.
Staff Sgt. Abdul Rahman Gaitan, 30, was granted the appearance exception in August to grow a beard in keeping with his Muslim faith, officials said, but the Air Force only publicly announced his waiver last week in a public affairs-produced article published on the service’s website. Gaitan is an aerial porter assigned to the 821st Contingency Response Support Squadron at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., according to the Air Force.
Since 2014, the Pentagon has allowed servicemembers to appeal to military leadership for the right to wear certain items mandated by their religions that would not be allowed under standard grooming and appearance regulations of the services. The Army, for example, has allowed brigade commanders to determine whether soldiers may wear certain religious items, including beards and turbans for Sikh soldiers and hijabs for female Muslim soldiers. More recently, the Army approved a soldier’s request to grow a beard as part of his claim to follow a Norse Pagan religion.
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