ONE OF THE FIRST SIKH WOMEN IN THE US AIR FORCE : JASREEN KAUR
This post Via Portrait of Sikhs:
Meet Senior Airman Jasreen Kaur from the U.S. Air Force 69th Reconnaissance Group, Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota! She recently re-enlisted in the Air Force. So, we decided to again feature her and ask some additional questions.
“I have a Gutka sahib with me which I brought from Shri Harmandir Sahib JI (Golden Temple). Gutka sahib keeps me sane when I am having Gurdwara sahib and family withdrawals. Internet & technology are some great inventions!! One can listen to Gurbani anywhere at any time of the day. I tend to listen to Japji sahib in my car on days when I’m running late to work.”
1) Please tell us about yourself. Why did you join the U.S. armed services?
I was born and raised in Punjab, India to Jasbir Singh, and Paramjit Kaur. My father moved to the United States when I was about 4 years old and my brother was about 6 months old. I eventually moved to the U.S. in 2006 when I was 17 years old. I finished high school and started college. I was unsure as to what I wanted to do during my freshman year of college. I wasn’t satisfied by just going to school. I needed to do more, and wanted to be completely independent. Since I grew up seeing my grandfather’s picture in his Army (Indian) uniform, military was always on the back of my mind. I finally thought about it, spoke to a military recruiter and felt like this was something I definitely wanted to try out. I discussed this opportunity with my parents but they weren’t too happy about it. They wanted me to finish my bachelor’s degree first. After a lot of convincing, they finally agreed to let me join the Air Force on terms that I will continue school (which I was going to do anyways).
2) Several of your family members have previously served in the armed services in other countries. Please tell us more about that.
My grandfather Major (Retired) Kartar Singh was the first in his family to branch out and do something other than farming. I don’t know much about his career except the fact that he retired in Ladakh, India as a second commanding officer. Following his footsteps, three of my uncles joined the Indian Army, and retired as Majors as well.
3) You were an athlete before moving to the United States. Did that influence your decision to join the U.S. armed services?
I don’t believe that being an athlete influenced me in any way of joining the U.S. military. However, it did prepare me physically and mentally for the upcoming challenges I was about to face in the basic military training.
4) Do you have any stories from basic training?
Oh there are so many stories however I can never forget the first night away from home, in a new room, new bed, and with having strangers as your roommates. My first night, my heart was racing and I was missing my family. Just when I settled into bed, I was startled by a powerful female voice asking me to read over the instructions for the next morning. I looked at the white piece of paper with all the instructions and then looked at the instructor (she was half my size and had to get on top of a bed in order to speak to me). At that moment, there was a voice in my head that told me, “You need to go back home and forget everything about the boot camp and Air Force.”
It was the loud and authoritative behavior of the instructor that frightened me but during my graduation from the boot camp, it was the same instructor that congratulated everyone on our achievement. Everyone giggled thinking about their first day and their scary experience with that particular instructor.
5) Can you please tell us about your current role?
I deploy, sustain and repair standard voice, data, and video network infrastructure systems, IP detection systems and cryptographic equipment. I perform, coordinate, integrate, and supervise network design, configuration, operation, defense, restoration, and improvements.
I am also responsible for analyzing capabilities and performance, identifying problems, and taking corrective action. In summary, you can call me a computer network hardware and communication equipment specialists for the U.S. Air Force.
6) What’s been your biggest learning experience/moment since joining the armed services?
Learning to live on my own is definitely the greatest learning experience because I went from being dependent on my parents to being independent within few hours. Although I missed having my family around, especially my mother, I learned that being independent was something I may have never learned if I had not joined the U.S. Air Force. I have been doing everything myself, and had to polish my time management skills. I recently adopted a dog (her name is Willow), and she has taught me to be more responsible, patient, and a lot calmer.
7) Please share your thoughts on the ongoing campaign to increase the number of Sikhs in the U.S. military.
I think it’s a great platform and I couldn’t be more ecstatic to see the efforts of my fellow brothers and sisters to raise Sikh awareness including assisting sabat surat (practicing) Sikhs with the process. Sikhs have been living in the United States for ages now, and I believe that just like any other Americans, Sikhs have the right to serve. They have contributed in every other sector of our nation so why not the uniformed services?
8) Do you experience any issues being a Sikh woman in the armed services?
I personally have never experienced any hardships. People I work with and my leadership are very understanding, and are always willing to lend a helping hand, and provide good advice.
9) Please tell us about your role as Victim Advocate in the U.S. Air Force.
Victim advocates (VA) provide essential support, liaison services and care to a sexual assault victim. VAs provide crisis counseling, ongoing non-clinical support, information and referral to assist with decisions about the case. A victim advocate can also be present for any interview or appointment at the request of the victim.
Also here is the link of this story our base did a while back (I don’t have my bachelor’s yet, I am not sure why they wrote I have one!):
Here’s a picture that features me:
10) What advice do you have for our young men and women who are interested in joining the military?
Military isn’t for everyone, but if you are a committed and hardworking individual than there is nothing that can stop you. Signing that contract is a huge deal, and not only are you going to be responsible for yourself but for your peers and civilians. Good research is crucial, and especially being able to talk to someone who has served or is currently serving would assist you when you are unsure. Everyone has different experience and emotions about joining, so it never hurts to speak to more than one person. My experience has been positive because joining has taught me patience, self-discipline, resiliency, self-confidence and assisted me in becoming a detail oriented person.
11) How do you practice your Sikh faith while being away from your family and community on extended missions?
I have a Gutka sahib with me which I brought from Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple). Gutka sahib keeps me sane when I am having Gurdwara sahib and family withdrawals. Internet & technology are some great inventions!! One can listen to Gurbani anywhere at any time of the day. I tend to listen to Japji sahib in my car on days when I’m running late to work.
12) Please share your hobbies, interests and passions.
I enjoy do-it- yourself projects because it allows the artist in me to be creative. Recently, I have been making flower vases out of empty bottles which have been appreciated by friends and family. The next few things on the list are to re-paint my dresser myself, and learn how to knit. I love reading and hope to have a library of all the books I have read (at the moment it’s just two shelves in my bookcase). Dancing and music has been my passion for the longest time. You will always find me dancing and singing in my apartment whenever I have some free time.
13) What do you see yourself doing ten years from now?
My goal is to work with the FBI, and that is what I see myself doing in ten years.