The United States Army will make an exception to a decades-old rule and allow a Sikh doctor to serve without removing his turban and cutting his hair, an advocacy group said on Friday.

Capt. Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi is the first Sikh to be allowed to go on active duty with a turban, a beard and unshorn hair in more than 20 years, according to the New York-based Sikh Coalition.

The decision does not overturn an Army policy from the 1980s that regulates the wearing of religious items, Acting Deputy Chief of Staff Major General Gina Farrisee wrote in a letter to Capt. Kalsi on Thursday and posted online by the Sikh Coalition.

Case-by-case basis

Instead, the Army's decision follows a long-standing practice of deciding such requests on a case-by-case basis, the letter said.

There's no indication that the overall policy is being reconsidered, said Army spokeswoman Jill Mueller. But Sikh Coalition director Amardeep Singh said he was hopeful the Army would announce a full policy shift.

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