Go Blue, Stay Blue: Fostering a diverse force Published Oct. 23, 2023 By Tech. Sgt. Samuel A. Burns 9th Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFNS) -- 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. Capt. Donsha Watkins, 9th Reconnaissance Wing chaplain, stands in front of the Foothills Chapel on Beale Air Force Base, California, Oct. 19, 2023. Military chaplaincy was established by the Continental Congress on July 29, 1775, for service members of all religions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Samuel A. Burns) Photo Details / Download Hi-Res Many new recruits are affected by 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 received some perspective from her older sister. “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 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 disputes over which military branch is better, Watkins said 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,” Watkins said. After joining, Watkins was pleasantly surprised by the level of diversity within the Air Force. Between all three bases where Watkins has been stationed, she has grown an immense appreciation for all uniformed members and their diverse 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,” 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.” Capt. Donsha Watkins, 9th Reconnaissance Wing chaplain, interacts with another Airman on Beale Air Force Base, California, Oct. 19, 2023. Chaplains are confidential counselors who often guide Airmen facing life challenges. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Samuel A. Burns) Photo Details / Download Hi-Res 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,” 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.” 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.