by Airman 1st Class Christian Clausen
432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
7/13/2015 - CREECH AIR FORCE BASE, Nevada -- The
clinic buildings themselves aren't scary; add the words mental health
and the image of being studied like a frozen caveman, and most people
will avoid them like a tiger were on the loose. That's why the 432d Wing
Human Performance Team was stood up--to alieve that stigma, provide
help and make those who can help easily available.
In the minds of some service-members, there is a false image of the
mental health clinic as a dark hole where clearances are lost and
careers are ruined. This very connotation ran through the mind of Capt.
David, 432nd Wing RPA pilot, as he prepared to make an appointment.
In the previous months David battled depression on a daily basis, his
motivation slowly wilted away until he found it a struggle to even find
the energy to enjoy playtime with his children.
"I love my kids with all my heart," he said. "It just got to a point
where I was under so much stress and felt so depressed. I didn't want to
do much of anything."
His troubles began while on deployment. As if being away from his family
and missing birthdays and holidays weren't enough, he faced problems
with his daily duties.
"While on deployment it felt as if I wasn't a part of the team and while
I was doing great work, for some reason I had a negative reputation. On
top of that I was having some marital issues," he said.
His frustrations seemed to follow him home, opportunities to make
instructor pilot or flight commander passed him by and he saw junior
officers with less experience fill these slots instead.
"I felt I was getting ignored for no reason," he said. "I tried my best,
I did great work, but I was being bad-mouthed and I didn't know why."
Everything seemed to keep piling up, daily struggles of shift work, lack
of sleep, and time away from family combined with a million other
things led his mind to start to wander.
"I thought about committing suicide," he said, trembling with the
memories. "I couldn't do that to my family. I also remembered hearing
that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. I knew deep
down my feelings of despair would subside. For the time of despair, it
He and his wife decided he needed to get help immediately. While David
was still hesitant for fear of career repercussions, at the time, he
decided that was the least of his worries.
"I finally had to accept that I was most likely going to lose my
clearance and not be able to fly. At that point I knew I just needed
help," he said.
David sought out the chaplain for guidance where he learned about the
other services of the human performance team. The HPT is unique to
Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, and is comprised of the chaplain corps,
operational psychologist, operational physiologist, and flight medicine
doctor and aims to help Airmen in the spiritual, psychological,
physical, emotional, and intellectual areas of wellness.
The chaplain determined David needed psychological help and referred him
to the operational psychologist. David met with him for weekly sessions
but ultimately it wasn't enough.
"(The psychologist) recommended I go to the mental health clinic," he
said. "I was still really nervous, I really didn't want to be put on
DNIF (Duty Not to Include Flying) status."
After the nerve-wracking visit to the clinic, David was diagnosed with depression and his fear of being DNIF became a reality.
"When they put me on DNIF I was angry," he said. "I was angry at the chaplain, the psychologist, just everyone."
While he was no longer on flying status, David retained his clearance
and was transferred from his flying squadron to the 432nd Operations
Support Squadron as the chief of operational planning and exercises.
His frustration and uneasiness started to subside. His new assignment
gave him the opportunity to support the operations rather than fly them.
"The change gave me a much needed break," he said. "Now I work a normal
day shift with weekends and holidays off which let me spend some much
needed quality time with my wife and kids."
Couple a new mission with his ongoing treatment and David began to notice a positive change.
"I felt refreshed, I have more self-confidence, self-esteem, and I'm
more sociable and motivated at work," he said. "I even won company grade
officer of the quarter for my squadron and I'm getting praise from my
bosses. It's been a total change."
If not for the advice and counseling he received from the HPT, as well
as, the support from his family, it's possible he wouldn't be here show
that he wouldn't have seen this positive change in his career.
"I was very hesitant following the advice from the HPT to go to mental
health," he said. "In the end they were right, and I'm very thankful to
them and my family."
In light of his new success, David talks about the HPT and shares his
experiences to help others who may be going through similar struggles.
"The HPT is a great tool for Creech and ultimately the entire Air
Force," he said. "Having all of the members together in one team and
each one having high level clearances means they can go into the
squadrons and talk to Airmen about how they're doing. They're unique
because we're unique."
Along with the HPT, David also wants Airmen to know even if they're on a
medication they can apply for a waiver to get back to flying.
"I personally know a pilot who is on a depression medication and was able to get back to flying," he said.
David went on to say, "If anyone is going through hard times and needs
help, don't hesitate because in most cases your career won't be affected
and you will actually improve it."
David is now back on track both in his personal and professional life
and currently has a waiver to get back on flying status in the works.
"I'm so thankful for everyone who has been there to help me and I'm really excited to get back to flying," he said."