Beale Air Force Base, Calif. – The decision to raise your right hand and take the oath of office can feel like a huge leap of faith. This was the case for U.S. Air Force Capt. Donsha Watkins, 9th Reconnaissance Wing chaplain, who pondered this decision for many years.
One big push that affects the majority of new recruits is family. According to a survey from Joint Advertising, Market Research & Studies, 86% of recruits have a family member who served in the Armed Forces. In Watkins’ case, both of her sisters served; one in the U.S. Army and one in the U.S. Marine Corps.
During the time that Watkins debated whether to join the service, she did get some perspective from her older sister.
“When [Watkins’ sister] first came in, there were not a lot of military chaplains that were women, especially not women of color,” said Watkins. “Sometimes you want to talk to a chaplain that you can relate to. When you don’t have that option, it can be difficult.”
Understanding the need for diversity gave Watkins the inspiration she needed to make the jump and join the Air Force Reserve as part of the Individual Mobilization Augmentee (IMA) program. The IMA program assigns reservists to active-component units, and allows them to create a custom duty schedule that helps meet mission requirements. Despite some sisterly bickering over which military branch is better, her family provided the utmost support, along with some important advice.
“They did talk to me about making sure that this is something that I really wanted to do because being a chaplain is a heavy task, especially when you are there to serve the men and women who serve this country,” said Watkins.
After joining, Watkins was pleasantly surprised by the level of diversity within the Air Force. Between all three bases that Watkins has been stationed at, she has grown an immense appreciation for all uniformed members and their variety of backgrounds.
According to the 2021 Demographics Profile of the Military Community, 29.4% of Air/Space Force members identify with racial minority groups. Female Airmen/Guardians make up 21.3% of the force.
“Representation matters,” said Watkins. “We should see men and women of all races and ethnicities with different religions. My expectation [for the Air Force] is to keep increasing the diversity.”
After nearly four years of service, Watkins has realized how the possibilities provided by the Air Force have exceeded her expectations. Through the IMA program, she has been able to spend her summers serving at Beale while maintaining a teaching job in the civilian world.
After experiencing all the benefits that the Air Force has provided her, both personal and professional, Watkins now reflects on the years she spent deciding on her military future.
“There were so many opportunities that I didn’t know about when I first considered joining,” said Watkins. “Maybe I would have joined earlier. At first, I wanted to join just because it was a family thing, but now I realize that this has changed my life in a lot of ways.”
Watkins describes her experience as a chaplain as “transformational,” while she remains authentic to who she was before joining the Air Force.
Chaplain Watkins’ story exemplifies tailoring your Air Force career to your needs. Regardless of how one serves, there is no limit to how much impact one individual can have on the service members around them. The dedication of each Airman is a step toward a stronger, more inclusive and compassionate force.
|Date Posted:||10.23.2023 12:41|
|Location:||BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, CA, US|