Just two weeks before Barack Obama leaves office, the U.S. Army issued a new regulation under his administration: servicemen and women will be allowed to wear beards, dreadlocks, turbans, or hijabs for religious purposes while serving the country.
The changes issued by the Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning, the first openly gay Army secretary, were announced Tuesday and are effective immediately.
“The Army has reviewed its policies to ensure soldiers can serve in a manner consistent with their faith so that we can recruit from the broadest pool of America’s best,” Army Secretary Eric Fanning said in a statement.
“Over the last year, the Army conducted rigorous evaluation and validation of how commonly requested accommodations would impact force effectiveness,” Fanning said. “Our goal has always been to ensure soldier readiness and safety while providing reasonable accommodations for these established and recognized faith practices.”
The changes come after the U.S. Army opted to allow openly transgender people to serve in the military. In June, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced a new policy allowing transgender service members to serve openly. “We can’t allow barriers unrelated to a person’s qualifications prevent us from recruiting and retaining those who can best accomplish the mission,” he said. The new regulations on religious dress and hairstyles address a different issue, but they still accomplish the same basic goal: They make the largest branch of the military more inclusive, and allow more Americans to serve their country.
Soldiers will still have to submit their requests for brigade-level approval, the Army Times reported. And soldiers will still be required to wear combat helmets or other protective gear when training or deployment requires it.