A Muslim female Army sergeant is raising cane at Fort Carson, Colorado, after her command sergeant major forced her to remove her hijab due to a suspected uniform violation.
Sergeant Cesilia Valdovinos was attending one of the Army’s much-maligned suicide prevention briefings earlier this month when Command Sergeant Major Kerstin Montoya tapped her on the shoulder and asked her to step outside.
Suspecting that Valdovinos was not keeping her hair within regulation under the hijab, Montoya asked that the hijab be removed for inspection.
“To me, it was the same thing as if they had asked someone to take their top off,” Sergeant Valdovinos told the Army Times.
As it turns out, you can’t get much past a command sergeant major- Valdovinos’ hair was not put into a bun, and 704th Brigade Support Battalion Adjutant Captain Brooke Smith was a witness to the infraction.
“Upon removing her hijab it was evident her hair was completely down,” Capt. Brooke Smith said of the incident. “CSM Montoya told her to get her hair back in regulation and not let it happen again. At no point did CSM Montoya touch the Soldier or yell at her (at all or within earshot of other Soldiers).”
Valdovinos, however, claims that her protective under-cap worn with the hijab is responsible for loosening her bun.
While Valdovinos could have simply let the situation go, the Army cook (MOS:92G) decided to make it a public affair, citing all the times she felt targeted for being a Muslim. In response, she teamed up with notorious military lawsuit hound Mikey Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.
“Unless this CSM, who wretchedly denigrated our MRFF client by ordering her to take off her hijab in public, enjoys the extraordinary powers of X-ray vision, it would have been impossible for this CSM to have even seen the hair of our MRFF client,” Weinstein said in a statement.
Valdovinos claims that she has been treated differently since donning the hijab, being referred to by senior leadership as “the girl with the hood,” and being assigned to headquarters after she -an Army cook- objected to cook pork products.
2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division commander Colonel David Zim no doubt wants the whole affair to end.
“I take all reports of Soldiers disrespecting another Soldier’s religious beliefs, observances, or traditions very seriously,” Zim said in a statement. “There is currently an inquiry regarding Sgt. Valdovinos’ claim. I will ensure our unit continues our tradition of placing a high value on the rights of our Soldiers to observe the tenets of their respective religions or to observe no religion at all.”
The Army began allowing religious headgear for Soldiers in 2017, requiring written approval by the brigade commander.
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