An airman stationed at Shaw Air Force Base died this week, according to a social media post from the 20th Fighter Wing’s commander.
Col. Derek J. O’Malley appeared on Facebook as the sun rose Wednesday morning saying “we lost another airman yesterday” but not revealing the circumstances or identity of the deceased.
“Here we are again. I can’t believe it,” he said. “I wake up every day to try to make this place a better place. There’s so much we try to do, so much more we need to do, but none of that matters right now because we lost another one of our own.”
Technical Sgt. William Banton with 20th FW Public Affairs said the process of notifying the airman’s next of kin is underway and that his or her identify will be released after that is completed.
This airman is the fourth to die this summer while stationed in the 20th Fighter Wing at Shaw Air Force Base, which is the Air Force’s largest combat F-16 wing.
Two airmen in their 30s who worked together in the 20th Component Maintenance Squadron died suddenly of health complications within one week after completing separate official Air Force physical fitness assessments.
A week before those deaths, a 28-year-old airman who served as a 20th Logistics Readiness Squadron aircraft parts store journeyman was found dead of what was thought to be suicide from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
O’Malley did not mention how the airman died this week but did talk in the social media video about the Air Force’s Resilience program, which is a new initiative to support readiness and leadership by talking about suicide, depression, sexual assault and other crisis prevention, intervention and postvention topics.
“For the last five years, suicide has been the leading cause of death among our airmen. This internal threat to our total force is often silent, hiding among our formations, endangering the lives of our airmen and their families. The Air Force is facing an internal threat that knows no boundaries,” the AF Resilience website says.
O’Malley said the 20th Fighter Wing will continue with the program’s Resilience Tactical Pause but that it is not what the main focus is this week.
“Remember that we’re all on the same team, and there is a family that is really hurting right now. That’s where our focus is going to be,” he said in the video. “I wish that I could know every one of your names and know your stories and know your problems and be there for you.”