Installation chaplain eager to grow community

  • Published
  • By Mark Wyatt
  • 66th Air Base Group Public Affairs

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Since arriving here last month, the new installation chaplain has been busy unpacking boxes, getting acclimated to the area and connecting with members of the community.

Chaplain (Maj.) Joe Watson is eager to continue his involvement with those who live and work on the installation.

“I want to get out and connect with the Hanscom community,” he said. “The best way to do ministry is to know people personally and know what their needs are.”

In his role as installation chaplain, Watson plans and executes the commander's religious support program, including planning and coordinating religious and humanitarian outreach for active duty, dependents and retirees.

“We have a tremendous chapel staff doing a lot of great stuff in the community,” Watson said. “I want to continue that and ensure all Airmen [military and civilian] are spiritually healthy to execute the mission.”

Watson, who previously served as the deputy wing chaplain at Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma, highlighted his leadership style.

“What we do in the chapel community is to find needs and meet them,” he said. “You can’t do that from an ivory tower; you have to do that from knowing people in your community.”

The ministry and military were not part of his original plans after graduating high school.

Hanscom’s new chaplain has his undergraduate and graduate degrees in chemistry.

“I was working on my Ph.D. when I decided to go to seminary,” Watson said.

And it was some years later when he decided to commission as an Air Force chaplain.

“I found out I was selected as an Air Force Reserve chaplain the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, while events were unfolding in New York City,” Watson said.

Hanscom’s new chaplain came on active duty in November 2003. He followed in the path of his father and grandfather.

“I have a family history of military service going all the way back to the Revolutionary War,” he said. “My four-greats grandfather was in the American revolution. My great-great-grandfather was in the Texas revolution.”

Watson has framed discharge paperwork of his grandfather, who served during World War I, and his father, who served in World War II.

They remind him of the service and sacrifice of those who came before him, as well as those military families serving today.

“I want to make sure I am supporting the needs of the Hanscom community each and every day,” said Watson. “It’s my purpose, my mission, to ensure Airmen and their families feel connected.”

The Hanscom Chapel offers many programs, including worship, liturgy, sacramental rites, religious education and a wide variety of lay organizations. Chaplains officiate at weddings, baptisms, funerals and other religious rites.

To learn more about Hanscom’s chapel program, visit