by We Are Sikhs — November 10, 2018
I learned who my father was and his role during this time and that my family eventually came to the U.S. to escape this persecution and I felt indebted to this country. I decided to repay that debt by wearing the uniform of the armed forces with the hopes to protect the country as it had protected my family.
About me, what I do-I was born in Punjab, India and came to the United States when I was about three. I grew up in California, lived there till I was 16 and then moved to Illinois. I joined active duty in the U.S. Navy in July 2010. By trade, I am an Aviation Ordnance man, which is like a weapons technician. The first three years of my career I was an Armament Equipment Technician. Here I worked on bomb racks, missile launchers, and rocket launchers. I was also an Aircraft Gun System Technician. After those three years, I switched to a different platform within my trade and became an Ordnance Work Center Supervisor. Here I was a supervisor for assembling the ordinance, so anything to do with the bomb, missiles, rockets, small arms, and machine guns as well. Roughly two years ago, I became a Naval Instructor and am now waiting to transition back to my ordnance community within the next year.
Sikh values laid the foundation of my military career- I grew up playing Gatka (Sikh martial arts) and learned that the principle behind playing Gatka was to protect yourself but also people who could not protect themselves. That was what sat deep within my heart; the understanding and the belief behind Gatka to protect the world and the people around you. If you look at the Sikh history, Sikh Gurus fought for all who needed protection from tyranny and that has a very strong relation to what the military is today. Furthermore, the amount of respect that gatka teaches you for shastar (weapon), a weapon should never be wielded to terrorize, rather protect and serve.
In junior high school, I started learning more in-depth about the history of persecution of Sikhs in India. I learned who my father was and his role during this time and that my family eventually came to the U.S. to escape this persecution and I felt indebted to this country. I decided to repay that debt by wearing the uniform of the armed forces with the hopes to protect the country as it had protected my family.
The uniform that I have worn for the last 8 years and I plan to wear for the next 12 will always mean more to me than any other career path I could ever go down because in my mind it is protecting the 99% that aren’t wearing the uniform. Being raised as a Sant Sipahi (saint soldier who would adhere one's life in strict discipline both in mind and body), you are a child of God but you are also a warrior and that is something that I truly believe in.
Being raised in a Sikh family has been instrumental to the success I have seen in the Navy
I am deeply influenced by our Sikh history - the warrior spirit of fighting for justice and fighting for people who cannot fight for themselves. And above that, someone that I have looked up to since I was a child was Mai Bhago. Mai Bhago was a female warrior in Sikh history who later became a bodyguard of Guru Gobind Singh Ji (tenth Sikh Guru). I was inspired by her and always thought that I can be a fighter just as any man could be. Which is an important concept and belief for any young woman who wants to serve in the military because it is such a male-dominated field. The Navy, for example, is roughly 25% female.
I have been on active duty for 8 years and it has been incredibly rewarding, but it is definitely a very difficult career path. Nothing about it has been easy and that’s where the spirit of ‘Chardi Kala’ (a mental state of maintaining eternal optimism) resonates deeply with me. When I faced hardships- having lost a loved one, having a difficult command, or having a difficult job, it was always the spirit of Chardi Kala--that you are going to make it through this and there are better things beyond whatever the difficulty may be—that guided me. Giving up was never an option nor was allowing unfortunate circumstances to break my spirit or faith.
Another thing about Sikhi that is very important to me is how welcoming Sikhi is of different types of people, of different beliefs and thoughts of people, it’s not wrong to be different. When you look at the military you meet so many different kinds of people, personalities, backgrounds, beliefs. And one thing that Sikhi taught me is to be accepting of everyone. It taught me to open-minded to that difference.
I will humbly admit that I would be nowhere in my career and couldn’t have accomplished nearly what I have if I did not have those Sikh guiding principles to keep me going. From what we have been able to identify and prove--I am one of the first Sikh women in the US Navy and part of an extremely small community of Sikh women who are pursuing a military career amongst all other branches. Knowing that my career has been seen as trailblazer along with some of my other Sikh sisters in arms, I find it exceptionally important to always set a strong and powerful example of what any and every Sikh woman is capable of. We are the daughters of a warrior family and we should never forget that no matter what career path you find yourself walking down.