Friday, November 06, 2015

UK rescue squadrons to relocate to Italy

U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa Public Affairs

11/6/2015 - RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany  -- The U.S. Air Force announced today that the 56th and 57th Rescue Squadrons from RAF Lakenheath, UK are relocating to Aviano Air Base, Italy starting in 2017.

These squadrons of aircraft, aircrew, Guardian Angel Weapons Systems and support personnel will relocate to Aviano Air Base starting in fiscal year 2017.  This includes five HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters and approximately 350 personnel in an effort to establish an enduring Personnel Recovery location within Europe.

"This relocation of our rescue airmen places them in a more strategic location to respond across Africa, Europe, and Southwest Asia," said Gen. Frank Gorenc, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa commander. "We always take a serious, pragmatic look at how we can most effectively meet our commitments and guarantee the shared security of the United States and our allies and partners."

The move is expected to take two to three years to complete.

During the European Infrastructure Consolidation review, programmers found excess capacity at Aviano. Part of the additional space was designated for the 56th and 57th RQSs, who deploy around the world to recover personnel from the most difficult and hostile conditions imaginable.

Construction decisions and transition milestones for the relocation will take place over the next several years.

USARAK battalion hosts family cyber seminar

by Sachel Harris
U.S. Army Alaska Public Affairs

11/5/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- The 59th Signal Battalion recently hosted its first family cyber seminar in the Frontier Theater here.

The event helped to wrap up Cyber Security Awareness Month, a month-long observance designated in October by President Obama to help increase awareness about cyber security and increasing the resiliency of the nation in the event of a cyber incident. This year's theme is "Stop. Think. Connect."

An Army Criminal Investigator, whose name is withheld for security reasons, was on hand to discuss topics such as geo-tagging, setting parental controls and over sharing personal information on social media.

"Anything a stranger wouldn't know from a general introduction, shouldn't be shared on social media," the investigator emphasized.

Army Lt. Col. James Chastain, 59th Signal Battalion Commander, added that it's important for parents to understand how to protect their children in today's world. His hope is that each family leaves each session more educated and empowered.

"Everybody is a target for cybercrime and most of the time, protecting your system comes down to simple changes and awareness called cyber awareness," said the commander.

"Cyber bullying and sexting are on the rise and knowing how to protect your kids by identifying the signs and doing things such as enabling the security features on your home network can keep you safe."

The battalion will be hosting cyber security events every quarter on JBER which are open to all military families.

Holloman F-16s first in AF for aircraft purification

by Airman 1st Class Emily A. Kenney
49th Wing Public Affairs

11/6/2015 - HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- The F-16 Fighting Falcons at Holloman Air Force Base are clean and pure - at least as far as their hydraulic fluid is concerned thanks to new test stands.

"Aircraft purification is removing all the moisture, air and particles out of the hydraulic fluid in the systems of the aircraft," said Senior Master Sgt. Ian Hall, the 54th Aircraft Maintenance Air Ground Equipment flight chief. "It's important because it will increase the system reliability on the aircraft, and it will greatly reduce the long-term maintenance costs."

Although the process isn't new, it's the first time it has been used on F-16s, and the 54th AMXS received the first three hydraulic test stands equipped with onboard purification systems.

The new stands will save money and resources. According to Hall, the system can save up to 230 gallons of hydraulic fluid compared to a standard flush.

"Previously, every time we had dirty fluid we had to do a drain-and-flush," Hall said. "That included all of our [aerospace ground equipment] as well. So, if our old hydraulic test stands were contaminated, we had to drain and flush the system three times and change the filters. Now, we can just run it through the new hydraulic test stand and purify our equipment. It's the same for the jets. We cycle their fluid through the hydraulic test stand, and it's as good as new."

With each flush taking as many as eight hours, the savings in time is an added bonus.

"In the big picture, you'd never have to do a drain-and-flush again," Hall said. "As long as you're hooking up that system when doing routine maintenance, it is still purifying that fluid."

Spain-Bound Charleston loadmaster has emotional ties to Ultimate Reach 16-1

by Senior Airman Jared Trimarchi
Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

11/6/2015 - JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Crossing the Atlantic Ocean to take part in a multi-national exercise takes most Joint Base Charleston Airmen far from home, but for one 16th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, it took him closer to home and heart.

Staff Sgt. Jonathan Akers is a dual citizen of the United States and Spain and was hand selected by his leadership to be part of Exercise Ultimate Reach 16. Ultimate Reach is an annual U.S. Transportation Command sponsored, live-fly exercise designed to test the ability of 18th Air Force to plan and conduct strategic airdrop missions with the 82nd Airborne Division.

And this year's exercise dropped those Paratroopers about an hour from Akers's home town in Spain.

Being a part of UR 16 gave Akers a chance to visit his country of birth and showcase the capabilities of the U.S. Air Force to his family and countrymen.

Akers was born on Torrejon Air Base, a military installation in the city of Madrid and spent 23 years living with his mother in Spain. 

According to Akers, he was dissatisfied with his personal accomplishments in Spain and his lack of motivation to attend college so he decided to move to the U.S.

"I joined the Air Force because I wanted to do something important with my life and be part of an organization with a great purpose," Akers said. "I learned about the job of a loadmaster and how they get to see the world and I knew that's what I wanted to do."

The airdrop portion of the exercise took place in Zaragoza, Spain, approximately an hour from Aker's hometown

According to Akers, members of his family will be on the ground during the airdrop to observe the joint operation between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization member nations. They will get a perspective of what he does on a daily mission.

"I'm excited to see my family," Akers said. "Ultimate Reach is a huge exercise which demonstrates what we can do, and I can't believe I'll get to show my family in Spain what I do. Even though we are separated by distance, I am close with my family and they are all proud of what I do."

His father and grandfather were maintainers in the U.S. Air Force, and as a loadmaster with the 16th Airlift Squadron; Akers travels the world in the back of a C-17 Globemaster III. While the pilots fly the aircraft, the loadmasters are in charge of the cargo and all passengers aboard.

"I have found fulfillment in my life as a loadmaster," Akers said.

Akers said he has tried to live up to the Air Force Core Value of "Excellence in All We Do" since he joined the military in 2010. He was promoted ahead of his peers to the rank of senior airman; he was named the Levitow award recipient, the highest award given during Airman Leadership School; he is currently a member of Special Operations Low Level Generation Two, which is the 437th AW's mission that supports specific Joint Chief of Staff missions.

Although he has accomplished great things during his five years in the Air Force, he said he is humbled by the Soldiers of the 82nd Airborne.

"The Soldiers I've met are fearless and I'm glad to know they are on our side and are willing to take care of business for our nation," Akers said.

Though Akers enjoys his time in the back of a C-17, he is currently working on his bachelor's degree, which will bring him closer to his dream job.

"One day I want to earn a commission and be a C-17 pilot," Akers said. "It's the best job in the Air Force and I would love to continue doing missions aboard the C-17. Maybe one day I'll participate on an exercise like this as a pilot."

Air Force NCO battles breast cancer with a will to win

by Airman 1st Class Kyle Johnson
JBER Public Affairs

11/6/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- It was November.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month had just wrapped up and Senior Master Sgt. Tracie Timmerman, the new 673d Force Support Squadron, Manpower and Personnel Flight superintendent, sat in the waiting area outside the radiology clinic, staring at all the pink ribbons and literature left out for the previous month's observance.

The display - and many others like it - was set up for October to raise awareness of breast cancer to encourage service members and their dependents to take their checks seriously in the hopes early detection would lead to more successful treatment.

Staring at the ribbons, Timmerman felt sick.

"I honestly can't go into the [hospital] and see all those pretty pink ribbons," Timmerman said. "It makes me sick. We put pink ribbons, and pink stuff everywhere. I get it, I have some of that myself, but when I look at it, and it's all over the place, I just want to make sure people really understand and are really aware how it affects people. Breast cancer isn't pretty. It's not."

Shortly before her permanent change of station to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Timmerman went to see the doctor at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia for the second mammogram of her life.

"I never had any thoughts of cancer, I just thought these checks were a pain," Timmerman said. "I did not do self checks. I didn't. I knew I was supposed to do it, but I didn't. I just never thought about it because cancer is just not in my family."

With normal mammogram results in hand, Timmerman went on with her PCS and arrived at JBER.

"I was good to go," Timmerman said. "Nothing was wrong."

An unwelcome surprise
But when she got to JBER, Timmerman said she began to experience unusual levels of exhaustion. She couldn't unpack her things as quickly as she usually would and she found it difficult to stay active.

"It was very difficult to explain how tired I was; I have never - in 20 years of military service - ever been late for work," Timmerman said. "I was very close to being late for work several times in 2014 over the summer because I couldn't physically get out of bed. I would get up and hunch over the bed, I had to hold on to the bed to get across the room and I felt just ... exhausted."

Cancer didn't cross her mind; after all, she had just gotten a normal mammogram a few months prior. Timmerman didn't know what was going on, but she did know she had a job to do.

"I let that go on all summer," Timmerman said. "I'm new here, I have a lot people that work for me, and I have a mission to do."

Timmerman continued to tough it out, even when a lump the size of a crabapple formed under her armpit.

"By the grace of God, my armpit swelled up," Timmerman said. "I could reach in and grab that lump and move it around; it hurt really bad. As I was feeling the lump in my armpit, I felt another one in my breast."

She panicked and went straight to the emergency room, but it was a Sunday, so there wasn't much they could do. She scheduled an appointment with family practice who referred her to radiology.

"I went to radiology, did the mammogram and you could see it on the screen. There was definitely a mass in my breast," Timmerman said as she began to cry. "The technician put the wand on there, and we went from having a normal conversation to her not talking to me at all."

Then she had the doctor come in.

"He couldn't tell me [for sure] because he had to do a biopsy, but he put his hand on my hand, looked at the screen and said 'this is not good,'" Timmerman said. "My husband was in the lobby, not yet aware I had four tumors, three under my arm and one in my left breast."

Ironically, Timmerman had been speaking to Senior Master Sgt. Michael Venning, 673d Contracting Squadron superintendent and his wife Laura, who was going through chemotherapy.

"Laura and I talked, so I could get her story and figure out what I really wanted to know. I wanted to validate what cancer was and try to say 'Oh I don't have it,'" Timmerman said. "I also wanted that friendship, that person to talk to, to help me through this process."

Laura told her there would be what survivors call a "find out" appointment, where the doctor would come in and tell her if she had cancer or not and, if she did, what her options were.

"Because of her help, I was able to prepare my mind so I knew what was going to happen when I walked in there. But nothing can prepare you for that," Timmerman said.

The doctor walked in and said, "Hi, I'm Dr. Woodham, let me go ahead and tell you right now - you have cancer."
"OK," Timmerman said. "Alright."

Then she lost it.

"At that point, you go through several different emotions: crying, screaming, hitting things. I wanted to turn the room upside down," Timmerman said.
"I'm eating right, I'm exercising, I take care of myself. How can I have cancer? I don't smoke, I don't do any of that stuff they say is a risk factor for cancer," she said - spitting the word cancer like a curse.

The doctor left her and her husband, Brad, a retired master sergeant for a while. Timmerman said the doctor had scheduled only the couple for that afternoon because he knew it'd be tough and wanted to be there for them.

"She gets excellents on her physical training tests, she's healthier than I am! This doesn't make sense." Timmerman's husband said when the doctor came back in to give them their options.

Cancer doesn't make sense, Timmerman said. It just happens.

Because each cancer is different, each person is treated differently. Timmerman was told she had a couple of options. She could go ahead and have a mastectomy to remove the cancerous breast, or they could start with chemotherapy.

Timmerman said she and her husband prayed many times, looking for guidance and support.

"I don't care about my breast, I want to live," Timmerman said.

Through this process, they decided she was going to have a double mastectomy and remove both breasts, rather than just one.

"I honestly don't know why, but we decided a double mastectomy was the right course of action," she said. "I signed the paperwork, I signed my breasts away Nov. 17, 2014. Later on down the road, we found out it was the best course of action."

For the following week, Timmerman hid her cancer from her children, Madison and Tyler, then 11 and 8. She said she didn't want to disturb their schooling, and wanted to protect them even as she squared off against a nightmare.

She protected her family as best she could from the terrible news, but later, her family would be the ones protecting her as she fought through her recovery.

"My motivation to thrive is my family. I have been married to a wonderful man for 24 years and I live for my beautiful kids," Timmerman said. "I knew I had to push through everything so they could see I was going to be around for many years."

Before her surgery, she tried to protect her children by hiding an ugly truth until it was absolutely necessary. When her recovery was fully underway, her children and their father protected her by giving her something to fight for.

"I took a lot of showers where I would just sit in the bottom of the shower and cry so my kids wouldn't hear me," Timmerman said. "I went to bed early, I cut myself away from my children so they wouldn't see me cry."

On the Saturday before her surgery, which she describes as the worst day of her life, Timmerman explained to her kids she had breast cancer.

"They thought I was going to die," Timmerman choked the words out, visibly more concerned for her children than her own mortality. "It was awful."

To encourage her kids, she introduced them to Laura, so they could see what their mommy would look like after she began treatment in full.

"That way my children could see another mommy who didn't have hair - which is what their mommy was going to look like very soon -  and was battling cancer as well," Timmerman said. "They could see their kids were fine, and the house was fully functional and everybody was OK."

After her kids said "Mommy is just going to wear a hat. Miss Laura is OK, so mommy is going to be OK too." Timmerman could finally face her surgery, knowing her kids would be alright.

On Nov. 26, she was rolled out of surgery and into nearly 12 months of recovery.

"I came out and I was bound up really tight. There were lots and lots of dressings and drains - all kinds of drains and tubes hanging out of my body - I was really weak and sick from the anesthesia," Timmerman said. "It was really difficult for my kids to see me like that, they trusted I wasn't going to die, but when they saw me like that they thought I really was going to die. I looked like death."

Timmerman said she didn't want to look. She didn't want to see what her body looked like.

"When the doctor took the dressings off, of course I looked. I dealt with it a little bit better than I thought I would. When I looked down and saw what my body looked like now," Timmerman said. "There were a lot of stitches, a lot of cuts - it was a mess.
"I thought, OK, it is what it is."

Recovery from the surgery took six weeks, during which she had drains attached to her body, suspended in bags she kept in a vest that had pockets all around.

To determine the best kind of treatment, the medical group sent her breast tissue to get a pathology report.

"They take - this was difficult to look at - they take your breast, your body part, cut it up and put it in all kinds of little specimens, send the tumors off to path[ology], and they look at it all," Timmerman said. "They test it for all different types of things to see what caused the cancer, what kind of cancer it is."

Following her pathology report, Timmerman met with her doctor again. He explained the condition of her tumors and what kind of treatment they would need to proceed with.

He explained her tumors weren't metastatic. This was good news - it meant the tumors were taken out as whole masses, they hadn't broken up and begun relocating as a series of small masses.

"It was stage 2. There are four stages, four is the worst," her doctor told her. "But you're triple negative."

Triple negative. Timmerman thought that sounded like more good news.

"No. Horrible. Worst cancer because it's aggressive," Timmerman said. "That means I was negative for estrogen, progesterone and [human epidermal growth factor receptor 2]."

Most chemotherapies target one of those three receptors, so treating triple-negative cancer is more difficult than other types, requiring combinations of chemotherapies.

When she finished her treatment, there would be no pills Timmerman could take to help her remission be successful, as there are for many kinds of cancer.

Her options were simple: surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

"Very few people diagnosed with breast cancer have triple negative," Timmerman said. "It's a very aggressive cancer which explains why it quickly went from me having a [normal] mammogram in March of 2014 to having four cancerous tumors in November."

She also found out her and her husband's instincts were right. By asking the doctor to take both her breasts, she greatly increased her chances for survival. There were some suspicious masses in her other breast the doctors believed had a high chance of becoming cancerous.

"They can't guarantee that cancer won't come back. It can still come back on the scars, it can still come back in the lymph nodes, it can come into my thyroid, anywhere," Timmerman said. "They decided the type of chemotherapy I needed was this thing survivors call the 'Red Devil.'"

When she showed up for her first session of chemotherapy, Timmerman said the red devil - doxorubicin, also known as Adriamycin - looked innocent enough, but after her first treatment, she learned why they called it that.

"I was drained. I was nauseous, laying flat out in the bed with cold cloths on my head and a bucket next to me; it was not pretty," Timmerman said. "It's not a beautiful disease."

Because the type of chemotherapy she was getting was so strong, Timmerman went once every other week, if her white blood cell count was high enough. The first two weeks, she said she lived in fear of waking up one day and finding all her hair on her pillow.

"I went to the bathroom, and my hair started falling out in the sink, it was just coming out in clumps, fistfuls," Timmerman said. "My head started hurting because my hair follicles were dying. I couldn't even touch my head."

After Brad shaved her head, she started to lose her eyebrows, eyelashes, everything.

"Now I have no breasts and no hair, so I really don't feel or look like a woman, at all," Timmerman said. "But I am a woman, I just didn't feel it. It was much harder than I thought."

Throughout the process, Timmerman said the support from her family and squadron was critical, but found she didn't want people to cheer her up with silver linings and pink ribbons. She just wanted them to understand what breast cancer really is.

"People want to put a positive spin and say, 'well at least you don't have to shave your legs,'" Timmerman said. "Painting your eyebrows on, trying to figure out how to have eyelashes when you don't have them, presenting yourself like a woman after being a woman for 43 years, it's very difficult, very hard.

"There's nothing positive about that. Cancer sucks."

Timmerman graduated from chemotherapy the last workday before Memorial Day, she and Brad decided to take the whole family to Homer to celebrate before she went into the next stage of her recovery - radiation.

"I would go in every single day, lay on a table in a mold of my body from the hips all the way up to my head," Timmerman said. "They did a couple of tattoos so they could make sure the beams lined up on my body correctly every time so my heart wasn't getting radiation."

So every day for 48 days, in the hopes of a healthier future, Timmerman went downtown and got the worst sunburn of her life.
"There was a lot of medication, lots of creams and stuff like that to put on my skin. They gave me bandages because it is hard to wear clothes and my skin was actually falling off my body," Timmerman said. "I'm not trying to paint a super-ugly picture, but it's very ugly."

Timmerman will always have the scars from her surgery.

She will always have a scar where they installed a port into her chest so chemotherapy could be administered to her regularly without wearing out the skin on her arm, and she will always have a beer bottle-shaped scar on above her sternum where the radiation left its permanent mark.

But she's a survivor; she has a team of doctors she can trust looking out for her and a support group of other people who are fighting breast cancer she can rely on.

"I've joined a support group, that was very difficult. It took my husband to push me to get out to that support group, but that
support has been a godsend to me," Timmerman said. "If I'm frustrated or upset about the fact that I don't look like a woman, I can say that to them and they understand it. They get it."

Though there is no such group on base, case managers assigned to the hospital often refer JBER patients to groups outside.
"This is an awesome med group," Timmerman said. "If you're ill, this is the place to be ill."

Now that her treatment is over, Timmerman has a team of doctors who are keeping a close eye on her for relapse, and will do so for the next five years.

"I check myself constantly - too much probably," Timmerman said. "I make a list of things I want my doctor to look at, and when I ask him, he just says 'OK, let's do it.' I've had nothing but wonderful treatment here. There have been little hiccups here and there, but with cancer, that's expected."

Even with the best medical teams in the world, there's nothing pretty about breast cancer. That's why it's so important to take self-checks seriously. Timmerman didn't.

"Mine was aggressive and it spread into my lymph nodes. If I had caught it earlier, it wouldn't have spread into my lymph nodes," Timmerman said. "I possibly could have avoided radiation.

"The earlier you find this stuff, the earlier the stages, the better off you'll be. That message needs to be portrayed."

Officials laud good training, swift response to hospital incident

by Senior Master Sgt. J. LaVoie
JBER Public Affairs

11/6/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Though weapons are a common sight in Alaska, only certain people are permitted to carry them on base.

So when hospital staff saw an agitated customer with a loaded weapon and ammunition, their training kicked in. Immediately, the medical group team alerted security forces and began to lock down the hospital as they were trained to do.

"Our priority is getting our patients and staff to safety," said Air Force Staff Sgt. Nathan Langel, 673d Medical Support Squadron.  "We want to make sure everyone is behind a locked door. The responsibility is more than just yourself; we have to look out for each other and our patients. That is a priority when you wear the uniform - you are here to serve and protect."

Officials said the lockdown went smoothly and complimented the swift response by the security forces.  Langel credits regular training for the efficient response.

"I think the hospital responded excellently in the situation and I think training helped greatly," Langel said. "Everybody seemed to know the proper procedures and took the necessary precautions.  It was just like running a drill, everybody seemed to know the procedure, and it ran fluidly. A lot of patients were brought to safety, and we've received a lot of great comments on that."

The incident response from defense forces, who managed to apprehend the suspect with no injuries, was also excellent.

"Here at JBER we train extensively on crisis-response operations, and we really instill that confident, physically and mentally prepared mindset," said Air Force Senior Airman Jeffrey Travis, 673d Security Forces Squadron. "We train more for this type of incident than we do for anything else. We train for both the mental and physical stress of responding to this, and how to deal with the public when we respond."

This training and the resulting exceptional response was noted by base leadership during a press conference after the incident.

"I want to thank the medical group and security forces personnel who quickly reacted to the situation," said Col. Brian Bruckbauer, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and 673d Air Base Wing commander. "It allowed emergency responders from both on and off the installation to apprehend the individual without any harm to personnel. The response was exactly as we trained and I am proud of everyone who responded."

Commentary: Choosing to live

by an anonymous Airman
Air Force Materiel Command

11/4/2015 - AFMC -- I have worked for the federal government for 13 years. In each and every one of those years, I have been through suicide awareness and prevention training. I have completed the Resiliency Training Assistant course, and I have even taught resiliency at Wingman Days. I know the toolsets to help and have a set of personal coping skills. However, there is nothing more excruciatingly painful than emotional pain.

Now the dark truth: I have attempted suicide twice and have battled suicidal ideation for years. I have a long history of depression and anxiety. Feelings of hopelessness, sadness and being alone, along with overwhelming stress and the desire to be "normal," piled up until I was in a very dark place. I found myself overcome with inner turmoil: do I choose to live or end it all?

Struggles, stressors, depression, sadness, anxiety, hopelessness and feelings of being alone are very real and very personal. They are not things I felt I could talk openly about to people at work, or even my family. I felt ashamed, embarrassed and scared, and I didn't know who I could trust with these very personal feelings and thoughts. Who would care? I didn't want to be a burden on anyone. These were my problems, not theirs. I felt at work that I was nothing more than a statistic. I felt as if no one would understand and I would just be told to "suck it up and move on." What would my boss think? How would it reflect on me and my work performance?

I understand that everyone has ups and downs in life; that's the way life is. But despite my history, I knew I was in the darkest place I had ever been. I knew the feelings I had were deeper and hurt more than they did when I had previously attempted suicide. The internal battle of part of me wanting to live and part of me wanting to die was becoming unbearable. Still, I went to work day after day, fighting a fight that no one knew about. It was easy to put on a happy face and act like everything was okay while I was around people. I even kept up the act at home around my spouse and children. No one knew.

For months I wrestled with my feelings, trying desperately to get the fighting within myself to stop. I was grasping at everything I could think of as a reason to live. When my spouse and I got into a fight one evening after a rough day at work, I blurted out without thinking, "All of our problems would be solved and life would be much better if I were dead!" After the fight I told him I was just upset, that I didn't really mean it.

I started to think more about death. I developed a plan on how I would do it. I was very methodical in the way I handled work things one day -- under the guise of 'situational awareness,' I made sure my co-workers knew where things were located for some events that were coming up; I left a few select papers and folders on my desk; I left my desk unlocked. No one noticed, though I would never do those things normally. I said my usual goodbyes and left for the evening with no intention of being alive to "see them in the morning." As I drove home, I looked at telephone poles and large trees and wondered how fast I would have to go to wrap my car around one of them to make it a fatal accident. I fought myself to keep on the road. I had one more thing to take care of before I left.

As I walked into my home, one of my children, who is young and doesn't say very many words, ran up to me yelling, "MOM, MOM, MOM!" with his arms wide open and gave me the biggest hug I have ever received in my life. When my child looked up at me and motioned for a kiss, that was it. That was the turning point for me.

In an instant I felt desperate; I needed help and I needed it now. I confessed to my spouse how I was truly feeling and that it had been going on for quite some time. The realization that there was a definite possibility of me not being here anymore was suddenly very real and extremely terrifying. I called the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and talked to a very nice, soft-spoken woman. She asked me a lot of questions about how I was feeling, if I had a plan and what my life situation was. As nice as she was, it wasn't providing the help I needed. I called my primary care physician and explained my need for help. She told me to go to the emergency room right away. Fearing that driving myself wouldn't go very well, I packed up my family and headed out to the ER, trying to keep myself together.

I was taken to a room immediately. I was very ashamed as I explained to the nurses and doctor what was going on. I knew how to be resilient; I taught it. The thoughts of, "I don't really need help" and, "I just had a bad day, I will get over it" started rushing through my mind. I fought the urge to just leave. I was there for several hours and released with a follow-up appointment at the mental health clinic early the next morning. My spouse called my supervisor to let her know what was going on and that I would not be in to work the next day. She was supportive and offered to help in any way she could.

I arrived at my appointment after a long night of thinking. I had a long talk with a counselor. She wrote me a safety plan and suggested I have my medications adjusted. I was once again sent home. I called my doctor and set up an appointment for the following day. I went to that appointment and told her what had happened. She made some adjustments to my medications and suggested inpatient care.

The next day I went back to the clinic with my spouse and explained that I needed more intensive help and wanted to be admitted. After sharing more details with the ER nurses and telling them that I really felt this was the best thing for me, I was taken to an inpatient facility.

I went to every group therapy meeting they offered. I learned that I am truly not alone. I have been told for years and by every mental health professional I have seen that "I am not alone." Until I experienced it first hand, I never believed them. I was not and am not alone. Through the group meetings, I found that a lot of people are suffering and battling the same dark, overwhelming sadness I was and still am to an extent. Their life situations weren't the same as mine, but it didn't matter. We were all there for the same reason: to get help.

I was in the inpatient facility for five days. When I returned home, the darkness had lifted some. I was by no means "cured," but I felt a lot better. I knew that I had done the right thing. I found hope when I thought I had none. I found reasons to live when I felt they were all gone. I found support from my supervisor, which lessened my work-related stress. For the first time in years, I felt some level of happiness. I was proud of myself for choosing to live. I was proud I took that step to accept I needed help and to get the help I needed -- even though it was probably the hardest thing I have ever done.

I still battle depression and anxiety and probably always will. But I have found through all of this that no matter what is going on in life, there is always a reason to live.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Air Force Materiel Command is currently conducting its Mental Fitness Campaign, to inform the workforce about the signs and symptoms of depression, offer anonymous behavioral health screenings, and promote mental fitness assistance programs and services. Click here to read more.

Professional counseling services are available for the AFMC workforce and their families. Active-duty personnel can contact their local mental health clinic for services, or they can contact Military OneSource by calling (800) 342-9647 or visiting Civilian employees can contact the Employee Assistance Program for free, confidential counseling services by calling (800) 222-0364 or by visiting