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Enthusiastically faithful: Air Force Capt. Chris Watson assumes duties as DINFOS command chaplain

By Army Sgt. Lisa M. Sadler | Defense Information School | August 23, 2016

FORT MEADE, Md. --

When Chris Watson was growing up in Alabama and Mississippi, his father worked in a shipyard, making $30,000 a year.

Because of the typical tuition costs at the time, college was not an option, he said.

Still, Watson wanted a new environment. So, he joined the Air Force.

“Like anyone growing up, 90 percent of people want to leave where they are at,” he said. “And when you get older, 90 percent of the time you realize it was not that bad.”

In his 22 years of military service, Watson went from being an enlisted airman to a chaplain.

His life experiences and enthusiastic faith formed the foundations for

his decision to become a chaplain.

In May, he assumed duties as the command chaplain at the Defense Information School on Fort Meade, providing advice to service members, civilian employees and the commander.

By all accounts, he is doing good work.

“You never know how the chaplain can assist you or provide his duties,” said Karen Marks, the budget officer for the Training Resource Analysis Branch at the Defense Information School. “This chaplain is incredible here!”

Marks enjoys getting to interact with Watson when she sees him in the halls, she said. His impact on DINFOS makes her a better person.

“In my opinion, he has the glory of God,” Marks said. “That’s what makes him so special.”

The irony is that Watson was not always a believer in Christ.

The only time Watson had attended church before joining the service was at a very young age while living with his mother in Alabama.

In his first Air Force job, he worked as a communication specialist on Scott Air Force Base, Illinois.

“I was an atheist at the time,” he said, “I was an atheist stationed at Scott Air Force Base, going to college while working on active duty.”

Watson was interested in becoming a lawyer or politician, but God kept putting people in his life, including a chaplain who walked through the dorms one night, he said.

Watson, then 17, was illegally drinking a beer in the dorm, he said. The chaplain pulled out this Bible and started reading a set of verses from the book of Romans called The Roman Road.

Watson pondered why this chaplain was out there wanting to talk to him instead of being home, or doing something else – anything but being there with him, he said.

“I was not paying attention to what he was saying,” Watson said. “Why was this man out here with me? What is it that compels him?”

That evening led Watson to church.

Watson started going to services on Sundays but never at the same church, he said. He always smelled like alcohol and smoke from spending time at the bars the night before.

“God continued to work on me,” he said.

He transferred into the Mississippi Air National Guard, started college full time, and started his relationship with Christ.

Joining the ministry meant he had to postpone law school.

“I wanted to make sure it was God’s calling,” Watson said.

Watson started attending Baylor University’s Truett Theological Seminary in Waco, Texas, and started working for the college ministry.

After he finished his seminary studies, Watson was offered two ministry positions, he said. One church was located in Blue Water Bay, Florida, the other was located in the cornfields of Athensville, Illinois.

“I told God I would never go back to Illinois after leaving Scott Air Force Base,” Watson said.

God had other plans. Watson became the pastor at the church in Illinois.

While working as a National Guard chaplain, Watson started a ministry at one of the local colleges, and by the end of the year, the ministry brought in a Christian music group to sing.

“I briefly met one of the lead singers,” he said.

Over the summer, one of his students felt that God was weighing on her heart and sent Watson and the lead singer an email.

The email mentioned that Watson and the lead singer should start talking to each other, he said.

“Needless to say, several months later we were married,” he said.

Ten months after Watson was married, he recalled a comment his wife made when he arrived home from guard duty.

“She mentioned I was the happiest when I had guard duty,” Watson said. “She said I should look at going back into active duty.”

Watson filled out the required paperwork, and six months later he was back on active duty at his first duty station.

Hurlburt Field, Fort Walton Beach, Florida, he said, smiling. God has a way of doing things.

“I got the girl, and I got to go to the beach.”

Today, Watson frequents the halls at DINFOS from 7:30 to 8 a.m. to offer his encouragement and enthusiasm to all the students arriving for class.

He understands that the students can’t always take time during their classes to see him, so he makes his presence known whenever he can, he said.

To him, that’s part of being a chaplain.

“It’s what we do,” said Watson. “We operate in the shadows. If we do our job well, you’ll never know we did it.”

Every Wednesday, Watson shares a slide prepared with a quote or picture to conclude the commandant’s staff meeting.

“He uses the slide to motivate you to treat people with respect and to treat yourself with respect,” Marks said. “I actually enjoy going to the staff meetings now because he is there.”

“It’s like going to church on Wednesdays,” she said. “It makes you feel good inside.”