LONDON: In a first for the British military, a Sikh padre has become part of the Royal Air Force’s Chaplain’s branch.

Flight Lieutenant Mandeep Kaur was one of five padres to graduate at RAF College Cranwell on Thursday, after completing reservist officer training. In another first, Flight Lieutenant Ali Omar became the first Muslim padre.

Padres provide spiritual and welfare support to all soldiers, sailors, airmen and women, and their families. They deploy on operations and aboard ships when they go on long deployments. Padres can also go out on patrols and live on the front line, on hand for when personnel need them.

Flight Lieutenant Mandeep Kaur grew up in the Punjab region of India and was chosen to be a Chaplain whilst studying in the UK for her doctorate in engineering. Whilst she was studying she was selected to be the first Sikh Chaplain and has been working on this role since 2005.

The Ministry of Defence recently launched a new diversity strategy to increase diversity and inclusion across the armed forces. The strategy will ensure that diversity and inclusion is a major part of all of the department’s work, including workforce policies, culture and behaviour. The strategy, ‘A Force for Inclusion’, will ensure that diversity and inclusion is a major part of all the Department’s work, including its workforce policies, culture and behaviour.

The RAF Chaplain-In-Chief, the Venerable (Air-Vice Marshal) John Ellis added:

“It has been a wonderful joy to welcome five new Chaplains today, representing the diversity of British society into the Royal Air Force Chaplains’ Branch and to celebrate with them and their families. It has been an absolute privilege to welcome our first Sikh and Muslim commissioned Chaplains into the Royal Air Force and I look forward immensely to working with them into the future”

It sets out what kind of organisation the MOD wants to be in the future: inclusive, representative and a force for inclusion. The department is committed to delivering a more inclusive culture and a more diverse workforce at all levels and this renewed strategy looks much further ahead and is underpinned by goals that are more clearly defined.