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News | March 29, 2024

Air Force chaplain finds her purpose

By Kristen Wong 11th Wing Public Affairs

JOINT BASE ANACOSTIA-BOLLING, Washington, D.C. — Many people spend their entire lives trying to discover their purpose. It empowers them to pursue their passions and make a positive impact on the world around them. This is a journey U.S. Air Force Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Meoshia Wilson, Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling senior chaplain, is very familiar with.

Growing up in Bossier City, La., Wilson wanted to be a hairstylist, just like her mom.

“Mom and I were close,” Wilson said. “We did everything together. [At the time], I was not yet clear on my creative expression and so I think it was one way I saw being creative but, ultimately, I just wanted to be like Mom.”

When Wilson was 14, her mom married and their family moved to Dallas where her step-father was able to find work.

In a new state, Wilson also found a new passion.

Throughout high school, Wilson dreamed of becoming an actress. Her life and goals all revolved around music and theater; she wanted to be the drum major of her school’s band and star in all of the musicals and plays.

“There was something so powerful to me about reading a script, taking on a character and really making that character believable,” Wilson said. “And then partnering with other people on the stage to present something that is entertaining but also is recognizable, believable and relatable to people.”

Wilson’s acting dreams continued after graduation and into her first semester at University of Texas at Austin.

Unfortunately, her parents had a different plan.

If they were to pay for college, Wilson’s parents decided that she needed to join ROTC and major in computer science. They were concerned her dreams of acting weren’t going to put food on the table or allow her any financial stability.

“I had zero interest in military service,” Wilson said. “But I joined ROTC and ended up loving it. Computer science … I tried my best, oh my goodness, but it was just not for me. And I was not for it.”

In the summer before her junior year, Wilson received an ROTC scholarship and became a resident assistant, therefore no longer needing her parents to pay for school.

With two years of college already completed, Wilson’s dreams of acting were behind her and she focused on getting her degree on time in order to move forward with her commission.

Wilson decided to switch her major to human development and family sciences and began planning for a career in orthodontics.

“I was still kind of searching,” Wilson said. “I had a friend who was in human development and family sciences in preparation for dental school and I’ve always loved teeth. I was like, well maybe that could be my path as well.”

The plan was to become a personnel officer in the U.S. Air Force while taking additional science classes, passing the Dental Admission Test, attending dental school and then becoming an orthodontist.

At her first duty station, Hill Air Force Base in Utah, the plan was underway but a new purpose started to form at the same time.

That is when Wilson said she “started really getting serious about [her] walk with God.”

It quickly became clear to Wilson that a career with teeth was not her path. She pivoted to counseling and pursued a mental health counseling degree instead.

It was at her second duty station several years later that her path truly became clear “by way of force shaping,” Wilson said.

In 2006, the Air Force was downsizing and Wilson was one of many that was let go from active duty.

“It was the most devastating moment of my life at the time,” said Wilson. “But it was also the most purposeful shift. It really forced me to say, ‘Okay, God, what are we doing here?’ And that's when I really got my clear call to ministry.”

Wilson began pursuing a Master of Divinity, which would allow her to apply to become a chaplain. She then got her pastoral experience as a hospital chaplain for a couple of years before applying to come back on active duty.

Wilson’s way forward was finally clear and she has now been an Air Force chaplain for more than 13 years.

Wilson believes her path was purposeful but it was always going to lead to ministry.

“It's important to just try things sometimes until you find your place, your purpose,” Wilson said. “Even though I had no idea the way I would work with human beings, families or couples down the road, God knew. I think it was divine that I had this friend who was on this path that fit my goals and I would later use [my education] in ways that I really didn't recognize at the time.”

She also believes her experience with acting contributes to her experience today. The reasons she loved theater can be seen in the way she interacts with the congregation and the way she conveys her love for the gospel.

“I would love to present the gospel in a way that is relatable,” Wilson said. “To really make the Bible come alive.”

Now, Wilson uses those experiences to fulfill her true purpose.

“I love being a chaplain,” Wilson said. “We get the privilege of walking with people through the best and worst of times in their lives. It is a privilege; for people to let you in, to be found safe and trustworthy because of the confidentiality that we provide. I view being with people as sacred.”

Wilson’s genuine care and compassion for people is evident to all those around her.

“I can’t imagine any person who has an encounter with Chaplain Wilson feeling unseen, unheard, or unsupported,” said Chaplain (Maj.) Tara Dixon, Air Force Chaplain Corps College staff chaplain. “It is who she is … She’s a great example as a chaplain and a leader.”

Chaplain (Col.) Ruth Segres, U.S. Air Force Academy chaplain, added, “There is a genuineness that exudes from her. She’s not one that is pursuing rank; she pursues justice. And it’s not for her; she doesn’t do anything for [herself]. It’s always to propel other people forward.”

When summarizing her purpose, Wilson said it is “to position people to perpetually prosper.”

“I believe that I am largely here on Earth to impact teams,” Wilson said. “Initially, my clarity was couples. I absolutely enjoy helping couples thrive because that helps families thrive. But being [at JBAB] has helped me expand that a bit. A couple is a team, a family is a team, but I lead a team here as well.”

Wilson’s leadership philosophies are to walk in integrity, to serve people well, to have mutual accountability and to make a positive difference. She also stressed the importance of leading from a healthy place.

“I inherited the chaplain team almost three years ago now,” Wilson said. “Several of them were wounded from different assignments and some were waiting on me to further injure them. It took me a while to build trust, for them to believe I am who I present myself as and that I'm not going to flip a switch three months from now.”

But her hard work and perseverance paid off and the chaplain team is thriving.

Wilson is eligible to retire next year but is not yet satisfied with her level of contribution to the Air Force.

“I want to be in a position where I have impact and influence on leaders who may be wounded themselves and be able to help them own what they need to own by looking in the mirror and getting some assistance,” Wilson said. “That is really the biggest contribution I would like to make to the Chaplain Corps before I retire.”

She hopes to become a command chaplain at a major command or field command in the future to enact significant change.

“[Those are the] positions where you get a voice and a vote on the special schools people get selected for, special jobs, opportunities, etc.,” Wilson said. “I want to advocate for people who may not naturally rise to the top; the ones who are killing it but are overlooked. I want to be a voice for those people.”

Wilson recounted a story that reminded her of her purpose.

“One morning, I was walking to the bus stop [in uniform] and some children were out waiting to catch their school bus. When I walked by, they stopped everything they were doing and kind of came to attention. And it reminded me: there are so many people watching.

“People need to see what's possible for themselves, they need to see representation. And they need to be affirmed so they don't talk themselves out of their dreams because of the hardships or because they don't see anyone that looks like them doing it or because it's never been done.

“Maybe it's never been done because you're here to do it first.”