First observant Sikh woman graduates from US Military Academy at West Point

Anmol Narang made history at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point on Saturday, becoming the first observant Sikh woman to graduate in the academy’s 218-year existence.

Second Lt. Narang, a second-generation immigrant born and raised in Roswell, Ga., graduated with a degree in nuclear engineering. She plans to pursue a career in air defense systems.

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“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 said in a news release from the Sikh Coalition, a nonprofit based in New York that works to protect the constitutional right to practice faith without fear.

Narang studied for a year at the Georgia Institute of Technology before transferring to West Point, which President Thomas Jefferson established as the United States Military Academy in 1802.

Narang was among the 1,107 graduating cadets President Trump addressed at the ceremony and thanked for "answering your nation's call."

“This premier military academy produces only the best of the best -- the strongest of the strong -- and the bravest of the brave,” he said. “West Point is a universal symbol of American gallantry, loyalty, devotion, discipline and skill.”

United States Military Academy graduating cadets wearing face masks march to their socially-distanced seating during commencement ceremonies, Saturday, June 13, 2020, in West Point, N.Y. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, Pool)

United States Military Academy graduating cadets wearing face masks march to their socially-distanced seating during commencement ceremonies, Saturday, June 13, 2020, in West Point, N.Y. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, Pool)

While other Sikhs have graduated from the academy, the coalition says Narang is the first observant Sikh woman to so do.

Congress passed a law in 1987 that prohibited Sikhs and other religious communities from maintaining their articles of faith while in the military. A Sikh’s visible articles of faith, including turbans and unshorn facial hair, were banned.

In 2017, the Army updated its rules governing religious liberties after a campaign by the Sikh Coalition to end the U.S. military's ban on certain religious practices.

The coalition called Narang’s achievement “another watershed moment” in ending employment discrimination in all aspects of American life.

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With her four-year degree complete, Narang will finish her Basic Officer Leadership Course at Fort Sill in Lawton, Okla., officials said. Following that, she will then head to her first post in Okinawa, Japan, in January.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.