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Second-generation Sikh officer joins Air Force Reserve

Picture of a woman standing with her arms crossed.

U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Naureen K. Singh, the 310th Space Wing director of equal opportunity, stands outside the wing headquarters building on Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, Aug. 2, 2020. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marko Salopek)

Schriever Air Force Base, Colo. --

Naureen’s father became the first Sikh officer in the U.S. Military with a turban and a beard. After graduating from college, she decided to pursue public service as her father did.

 

Prior to joining the Air Force Reserve, Naureen was well acquainted with the military lifestyle, having grown up on and around military bases throughout her father’s 28-year career.

 

“From a young age I saw what commitment to a bigger purpose looks like,” she said. “Seeing how military members carried themselves would make me say to myself ‘I want to be a part of something like that one day.’”

 

Though she admired the image service members presented, joining their ranks wasn’t an option she considered for herself. “Because the military was very familiar to me, I never imagined it to be my career,” she said.

 

For Naureen, the 310th Space Wing’s Office of Equal Opportunity director, the path to service was a much different process than it was for her father who joined the U.S. Army in 1979.

 

“For my dad, it was difficult to join the military,” said Naureen. “He had several factors that made the process different. For instance, he wasn’t a citizen at the time, he had a dental degree from India, and wore a turban and had a beard. Typically, at that time any one of those things could prevent someone from joining.”

 

When her father, retired U.S. Army Col. G.B Singh, put in his application to be an Army dentist, he had to meet a board of officers for an interview.

 

“They asked me a lot of questions about the Sikh religion and my background,” he said. “(After the interview) they asked me to stand outside and about 15 minutes later the major walked out and said ‘Well, let me shake your hand. We’ve decided to accept you.’”

 

Like many children of military members, her father was often away fulfilling his duties. There were times when he lived separately from his family because her parents didn’t want their children moving from school to school, changing their friends, and constantly re-adjusting to their new surroundings.

 

“When I asked him why he decided to make the military his career choice, he told me stories about the enlisted and junior officers he guided personally and professionally. He not only motivated them to find their way in the military- he helped them find their way in life. I found myself inspired by the courage, tenacity, and resilience to a greater purpose that my father exhibited.”

 

This resonated with Naureen, as one of the primary tenets of her Sikh faith is the idea of selfless service, or “seva.” After she graduated from university, she wondered how she can leverage her skills to use them to do better.

 

“Public service was a domain in which I envisioned myself living my highest purpose,” said 2nd Lt. Naureen Singh. “The unique structure of the Reserve implores me to both serve my country and invest in my local community. I am inspired by the opportunity to serve in multitudes without having to give up on any part of me that makes me who I am.”