Department of Defense seeks input on diversity, inclusion; could affect many Indian-Americans

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Manav Singh Sodhi, 17, on right, with Lt. Col. Kamal Kalsi. Sodhi will soon head for basic training for the U.S. Military and has received the religious waiver to keep his beard and turban while in training. (Photo courtesy, Lt.Col. Kamal Kalsi)

The Department of Defense Board on Diversity and Inclusion is seeking feedback from all personnel on how to improve diversity and inclusion so that it could lead to “lasting change’ in the armed forces.

This could affect a number of minorities in the country including Sikhs, Muslims, Jews, and Native Americans, according to Lt. Col. Kamal Kalsi, president of the Sikh American Veterans Association, and long time champion of the rights of religious minorities to keep their articles of faith when joining the defense forces, including hair, beard, hijab, yarmulke etc.

The Board will report its findings and recommendations to the Secretary of Defense by Dec. 15, 2020, a Sept. 1, news release from DOD said on Defense.gov. The closing date for input is Oct. 16.

Its recommendations to the Secretary of Defense will revolve around among other things, promoting the inclusion of minorities in military culture and “strengthening individual and cultural identities such as hair and shaving standards and dress.”

“We celebrate and appreciate any diversity initiatives from our nation’s largest employer, the armed forces, and we are looking forward to working with them closely to help meet their objectives,” Kalsi told News India Times.

Kalsi said Sikhs have made considerable progress over the years working with the U.S. Army and Air Force, and now the Navy. “Hair for example, is sacred to  a number of traditions and cultures around the world including some Muslims, Native Americans, Black people, and Sikhs of course,” he noted. “So it’s all part of the same conversation.”

Other recommendations will deal with strengthening community engagement; retaining minorities beyond initial service commitment and into leadership ranks; addressing barriers at workplace; addressing advancement opportunities; reviewing command and organizational climate issues affecting minorities negatively.

“The board will focus on actions to enhance diversity and inclusion and drive a cultural shift to create lasting change in the Defense Department, from recruiting, career track selection and retention; to accessions, assignments, schools and promotions; to military justice and everything in between and beyond,” a DOD news release said.

The DOD has provided a crowd-sourcing site so that personnel can send their ideas (www.milSuite.mil).

“Hearing from our service members is critical in helping the Department of Defense make lasting changes to our military culture,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Troy E. Dunn, the board’s senior military member, is quoted saying in the news release, urging an ‘honest dialogue.’

The Board wants to focus on four major areas- military policies, programs and processes; best practices of industry, academia and other non-DOD organizations; scientific literature and recommended actions; and generating actionable items and policies to improve diversity and inclusion.

 

 

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