Pentagon allows Native American airman with north country ties to grow out his hair

Published: Nov. 23, 2022 at 4:58 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - The Pentagon has granted a religious accommodation to allow a Native American airman from the Antwerp area to grow out his hair.

“The longer it is, the closer it is to the ground, the more connected I am with the earth. The longer my hair is, the more spiritually strong I am, you know, I have more power,” said Airman 1st Class Connor Crawn.

As part of the Mohawk Tribe, Crawn says the values and length of hair are spiritually crucial.

“If I were to braid it, it’s even more strength. Those three strands together makes everything strong, so a lot of it just comes down to spiritual strength and connection to the creator, connection to the earth,” he said.

But once Crawn enlisted in the Air Force, he cut his hair due to regulations. For the next 2 years, he pushed to get a religious accommodation. Last month, he got it. The approval came from the Pentagon.

He will now follow Air Force rules for a woman’s hair standards.

“I’m starting to feel a little better that my hair is not shaved down to the skin like that anymore, that, you know, I have that permission to grow it out, but it really felt like a part of me died when I lost my braid,” he said.

Crawn says he hopes to motivate other Native American service members to fight for their beliefs.

“Trying to make that change and be an advocate for that change in the military so we can grow our hair and keep our hair in uniform,” he said.