By Jacqueline BoucherAugust 2, 2018
At the tender age of 7, Sgt. Maj. Paul Watson knew exactly what he wanted to do with his life.
Influenced by the Jamaican soldiers of his youth, he was determined to join the military as soon as possible. His family arrived in the United States on a cold, snowy day in December and less than three years later, he was on his way to achieving his dream by becoming an Army Soldier.
Thirty years have passed since that determined teenager boarded a bus headed to Fort Knox, Kentucky, and basic training. Later this year Watson will bid farewell to a career in which he rose to the top of his field, attained the Army's senior enlisted rank and travelled the world.
Watson will relinquish the role of depot sergeant major to Tobyhanna Army Depot's new senior enlisted advisor during a ceremony Aug. 3, before joining his family in North Carolina.
"This is a fitting place to end my career," Watson said. "Everyone here made me feel so welcome and helped me see my role as a Soldier from a different perspective. I will always remember my time spent with the members of Team Tobyhanna."
This noncommissioned officer has gone wherever the Army needed him: Panama; Korea, Germany, four deployments to Southwest Asia, and four stateside assignments.
The sergeant major's first job in the Army was as a meteorologist who provided weather data to artillery units. His role wasn't to predict the weather, but improve the accuracy of artillery rounds by relaying weather conditions in the gun's line of fire. During those first four years, Watson remembers spending more than 300 days in the field.
"When it came time for me to reenlist, I decided to try my hand at another military occupational specialty," he said with a smile. "Communications security and radio repair had an opening, so I thought I'd give it a try. I ended up staying in the field for the rest of my career." Today, Watson holds the rank of senior electronic maintenance chief.
Watson boasts a lifetime of experience gained through three decades of military service. Not one to turn down an opportunity to excel, the sergeant major's resume lists talents that include drill sergeant and instructor. Through most of his career, he employed a hands-on technique to cultivating Soldiers skills and abilities. He also served in numerous staff and leadership positions at stateside and overseas locations, including a number of deployments to Southwest Asia. After he joined the senior leadership ranks he realized he had an opportunity to affect change on a larger scale.
In 1994, he was on duty in Panama when 1,000 Cuban refugees stormed out of a detention camp injuring hundreds of American Soldiers in a daylong melee before order was restored.
"I have lots of memories, but that one always comes to mind when I'm asked to talk about my career," he said. "I remember it like it was yesterday, it was exciting and frightening at the same time."
Watson said he will miss the comradery of the Soldiers and civilians he's worked with since stepping off that bus at Fort Knox in 1989.
"It's an honor to be counted as a member of this unique organization where the employees excel at supporting the warfighter," he said. "I have learned so much and am grateful to be a part of Tobyhanna Army Depot's legacy of success."