“My expectation is to keep increasing the diversity:” Air Force chaplain implies Airmen should be able to seek council from chaplains of their race

U.S. Air Force Capt. Donsha Watkins, 9th Reconnaissance Wing chaplain, stands at the podium inside of the Foothills Chapel on Beale Air Force Base, California, Oct. 19, 2023. Air Force chaplains represent several faith groups, including Catholic, Jewish, Orthodox Christian, Muslim and Protestant. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Samuel A. Burns)

Appeal-Democrat, Marysville, Calif.

Nov. 30—The decision to join any branch of the military can feel like a giant leap of faith.

In the case of U.S. Air Force Capt. Donsha Watkins, 9th Reconnaissance Wing chaplain, she weighed this decision for a significant amount of time.

A major factor potential recruits consider is the impact this decision will have on their families. 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 Army and one in the Marine Corps.

It was her sisters’ service history that encouraged Watkins to join the Air Force.

“When (my sister) first came in, there were not a lot of military chaplains that were women, especially not women of color,” Watkins said. “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. This development assigns reservists to active-component units, and allows them to create a custom duty schedule that helps meet mission requirements, officials said.

“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,” Watkins said.

After joining, Watkins said she was pleasantly surprised to see the amount of diversity within the Air Force. Between all three bases that she has been stationed at, Watkins has grown an immense appreciation for all uniformed members and their variety of backgrounds.

According to the 2021 Demographics Profile of the Military Community, nearly 30% of Air and Space Force members identify with racial minority groups. Female airmen and guardians make up over 21% of the force, the study reported.

“Representation matters,” Watkins said. “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 in 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 as a civilian.

After experiencing all the benefits that the Air Force has provided her in both her personal and professional life, 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,” Watkins said. “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.”


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