By Sgt. 1st Class Laura Berry, Massachusetts National Guard Public Affairs
/ Published June 15, 2020
BARNES AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- Master Sgt. Lindsey Sarah Watson-Kirwin enlisted in the New Hampshire Air National Guard in 2003 as a high school senior to pay for college and to serve her community. Her dad, who passed in 2006, had served in the Army during Vietnam as a Green Beret and encouraged her to consider the military. She has since been a member of the Tennessee Air National Guard and is now a member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard where she plans to finish her career.
“One of the most rewarding and difficult moments of my career was being promoted to master sergeant and not being able to have my dad there,” she said. “I was blessed to have my mom and my fiancé Dawn there.”
Her dad, mom and grandma have been huge influences in her life, along with her cousin Todd who was really more of a second father.
Watson-Kirwin said her military mentors, Col. Lisa Simmons and Retired Senior Master Sgt. Tammie Smeltzer helped her grow up through the ranks from an Airman and were amazing examples of strong women in the military. She also looked up to Retired Chief Master Sgt. Debbie Marshall who was the first female, gay chief she had met and she realized that was a real possibility.
“It is so important for young people to be able to see themselves in the highest ranks and positions and know that is attainable for them,” Watson-Kirwin said.
Watson-Kirwin recommends to Airmen that they need to identify their limits and stressors and find out what will help to relax and release negative energy.
“While I hope everyone takes the time and energy to help others you need to remember to take care of yourself as well,” she said. “When you feel yourself wearing thin make it a priority to take the time for yourself to relax and recuperate. I would also encourage everyone to build their circle of trusted friends who they can lean on and vent to when they need to.”
In her down-time, she enjoys reading, drawing, and practicing yoga. She enjoys reading Toni Morrison. Recently, she found Brené Brown’s book Dare to Lead and her podcast Unlocking Us to be very impactful.
Watson-Kirwin has been in the Air National Guard for 17 years and plans to stay in past 20 years.
“Any career you choose has challenges and moments that tempt you to walk away, but the benefits and rewards of the Air National Guard have always outweighed those and made each reenlistment an easy decision,” she said. “I have two associates’ degrees through the Community College of the Air Force and a bachelor’s degree from Westfield State University that the Massachusetts Air National Guard paid for. I have been able to travel to places and have experiences through the ANG that I would not have had otherwise.”
Watson-Kirwin’s unit, the 104th Fighter Wing, was recently state-activated by Governor Charlie Baker as part of the COVID-19 response mission in Massachusetts. Her team documented the Airmen from the 104th Fighter Wing and Airmen and Soldiers from other units in the state respond to the community’s needs.
Watson-Kirwin said that Dawn’s support has made it possible to do her job.
“It is amazing to have Dawn at my side supporting me and helping keep everything running when I work long days or weird hours,” she said.
They were planning to get married this summer but have moved their wedding to the fall due to COVID-19 restrictions. They have three fur-babies -- Tesla, a four-year-old Border Collie, Leopold, a seven-year-old Lynx Point Siamese, and Spaz, a 16-year-old Chihuahua.
For the first part of her career, the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy was in place and she could not openly be herself. She said that just because someone does not visually fit a stereotype or broadcast their background, beliefs, or orientation does not mean they do not belong to that community.
“Be aware that you could be deeply hurting someone with your words or actions without knowing it,” she explained. “Also, be cognizant that just because you do not think something is offensive does not mean it is not. Everyone has lead a different life, had different experiences, and has different limits and triggers.”