Sikh in Royal New Zealand Air force
Five months of intensive training paid off as 10 members of the Royal New Zealand Air Force initial officer training course graduated at Base Woodbourne, in Marlborough, yesterday afternoon. The course was the second of the year, with graduates trained on the skills and knowledge expected of junior officers. Flying Officer Beer Bains, of Auckland, was one of the 10 graduates. He came to New Zealand in 2000 from Punjab, India, and said he was looking forward to starting his role as a junior engineering officer at Base Auckland. "This is where I want to be," he said. "The training was good, but I'm dying to get there and getting right amongst it
Next day a lady in " letters to the editor " questioned as below
Beard and turban
You published a picture and story about the latest course of officers graduating from Base Woodbourne ["Air force officers graduate in style", Express, October 26]. Why is Flying Officer Beer Bains able to sport a fully grown beard and wear a turban as a New Zealand Air Force officer graduate? Mr Bains is quoted as saying the discipline and high integrity of a military life appealed to him. It was my understanding that men must be clean shaven with tidy hair and wear their full uniform, no exceptions or excuses. Does this mean that all men can now have long hair and beards plus choice of hat while graduating in our New Zealand Air Force? ~ WENDY MOORE
Queen Charlotte Sound Defence communications group spokesman Squadron Leader Tawhiao Coromandel responds:
The Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) is an "inclusive organisation", just like New Zealand society. While not widely appreciated by members of the public, our uniform code contains provisions that are consistent with the Human Rights Act and our inclusive philosophies. Accordingly, as a member of the Sikh faith, Flying Officer Bains deportment and attire as pictured in the Express are completely consistent with our uniform code, eg, he is wearing the air force turban issued to him for ceremonial duties. Members of the Sikh faith have strong historical links with the Crown and the Commonwealth, having fought and died alongside British and Kiwi troops in a number of wars. The RNZAF isn't the only force to welcome Sikhs with turban and beard to serve their country, while also remaining true to their religious faith. Our allies and friends around the world have been doing so for many years, and there are Sikhs serving in the New Zealand police, the British army, the Canadian forces, and the US army, etc. We are very pleased that Flying Officer Bains has chosen to serve with the air force.