base information

Gunfighter helps prevent suicide

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- Suicide prevention training has been incorporated into Airman culture from basic training though every level of professional military education and yearly refresher training.  In this instance training and being a wingman helped keep an Airman alive. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Gina Chiaverotti-Paige)

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- Suicide prevention training has been incorporated into Airman culture from basic training though every level of professional military education and yearly refresher training. In this instance training and being a wingman helped keep an Airman alive. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Gina Chiaverotti-Paige)

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- The evening of Oct. 7 started off normal. A friend I met in technical school stationed at another base was texting me just like any other ordinary day, conversations as usual, but little did I realize this day wouldn't end normal.

At 8 p.m. my friend started drinking by herself. I told her she shouldn't be drinking alone, but she insisted she'd be fine because she had me and one other friend to text with. At 11 p.m. she randomly said she was in a bad mood. I continuously inquired as to why and reminded her that I was there for her but she told me not to worry about it or waste my time on her. She said she didn't want to eventually push me away with her problems so what was the point. I assured her I would always be there for her. Shortly after midnight she texted me "I'm done." From this point everything went downhill fast. She spoke of wanting to die. I couldn't believe or grasp the dire reality of exactly what she was actually saying.

The situation grew worse when she sent a picture of a cluster variety of pills with the words "I'm serious." I called her cell phone immediately after receiving this text. Four attempts with no answer. My friend called back within a minute and I asked her for a number of someone I could call to get her help. She went on saying she didn't want anyone to know and was afraid of ruining her career.

Five minutes into the conversation my friend had changed her mind. It sounded like she fell to the ground. She was crying and making shivering sounds. She said she was scared and didn't want to die anymore. She told me she attempted to throw up the pills she had taken without success. As I was talking to my friend, my coworker was able to make contact with Security Forces at my friend's base. At this point she finally started giving me information I could relay to Security Forces on her base.

My friend started to sound incoherent; however, I was able to obtain her physical address. Her replies became shorter and I could barely understand her. I kept talking to her to keep her awake until somebody else was able to make hands-on contact with her. Moments later there was a knock at the door and my friend was able to get up and let Security Forces and Medical personnel in. I was extremely relieved to know someone was there to help her and intervention was on it's way.

Weeks have gone by but it's still hard for me to grasp the severity of the events that took place. I find myself thinking what if... What if she hadn't texted me? What if I had called her sooner? What if we hadn't acted on my friend's desperate outreach for help?

The Air Force harps and harps on us about the "Wingman Concept" and Suicide Prevention. Suicide Prevention training educates us on the indicators of a wingman short on hope in their life. Being a great Wingman incorporates into us the ability to step in and sound the alarm, so to speak. As a solid Wingman you are personally and professionally charged to know when to ask for help, how to recognize when others are asking for it and how to act on it. Each person has a priceless value in this world and most couldn't comprehend the ripple affect after they are gone. Their families, friends, the Air Force and the mission will be adversely affected. American Actor Peter Greene said it best, "As anyone who has been close to someone that has committed suicide knows, there is no other pain like that felt after the incident."