Air Force commander apologizes for calling airmen who commit suicide 'chickensh*t'

news

Col. Michael A. Miller, commander of the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, speaks to airmen following a 1.2 mile run on Friday, Aug. 2, 2019

(U.S. Air Force photo)

The commander of one of the Air Force's two B-52 Stratofortress wings issued an apology to airmen on Monday after referring to airmen who take their own lives as "chickenshit" during an event stand down event he ordered to focus on suicide prevention within his unit.

Col. Michael A. Miller, commander of the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, reportedly commented that "killing yourself is a chickenshit way to go" during a 1.2 mile "resiliency day" run with personnel on Friday.


"Let me say that my choice of words was poor," Miller said in a statement on Monday. 'I referenced the act of suicide in a manner that was insensitive and inappropriate."

However, that one sentence doesn't capture the context or intent of the message I was trying to relay," he continued. "Battling through pain to ask for help is one of the most courageous things we can do. Asking for help is hard, so we need to build that sense of family where it is acceptable to ask for help from each other."

Miller's comments, first described by airmen in social media the popular Air Force amn/nco/snco Facebook page, came days after Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein ordered all units to take a day before Sept. 15 to focus on suicide prevention.

"Suicide is an adversary that is killing more of our airmen than any enemy on the planet," Goldfein write in a July 31 memo to commanders obtained by Task & Purpose. "You and I have sworn to 'defend against all enemies, foreign and domestic.' Suicide attacks sometimes with and without warning. Make this tactical pause matter. Make it yours and make it personal."

Since June 2019, three airmen from Barksdale have committed suicide, according to local ABC News affiliate KTBS-3.

A 2BW official told Task & Purpose that the Friday event was ordered on Miller's own direction not just in response to the uptick in suicides, but to a series of murders involving Barksdale airmen in the base's host city of Bossier City, a concern Miller detailed in a July 17th statement.

"I've been stationed at eight installations in my 25 year Air Force career and I have never experienced as many murders involving Airmen and their families," Miller wrote at the time. "Since I took command in June of 2018, five members associated with Barksdale Air Force Base have been murdered."

The detailed of those murders, per local outlet BossierNow:

On Sept. 25, 2018 Joshua Kidd, a technical sergeant who was assigned to the 2nd Maintenance Group, was murdered outside of his home.

On Nov. 8, 2018, Tech. Sgt. Kelly Jose and his spouse Heather Jose were murdered after giving a man a ride when they were shopping at Mall St. Vincent. Tech. Sgt. Jose was a reservist and full time civil servant Airman for the 307th Logistics Readiness Squadron.

On June 22, 2019, Mr. Antonio Williams, a U.S. Postal worker, was gunned down while delivering mail in Shreveport. He was the spouse of Ivy Shelby-Williams, a civil servant Airman in the 2nd Medical Group.

On June 30, 2019, Perry Bailey, a technical sergeant assigned to the 2nd Medical Group, was murdered in a residence in Shreveport.

"My heart has been heavy with all of the deaths the 2nd Bomb Wing has experienced recently," Miller wrote in his Monday statement. "As a sitting commander, I take this issue very seriously and care about every single one of our Airmen. I would do anything to help any one of them who may be suffering."

Read Miller's full statement below:

"First, let me say that my choice of words was poor. I referenced the act of suicide in a manner that was insensitive and inappropriate. However, that one sentence doesn't capture the context or intent of the message I was trying to relay. Battling through pain to ask for help is one of the most courageous things we can do. Asking for help is hard, so we need to build that sense of family where it is acceptable to ask for help from each other.

My heart has been heavy with all of the deaths the 2nd Bomb Wing has experienced recently. As a result, I initiated a wing-wide stand down day including a resilience run to start the day for our Airmen. Friday's event gave voice and generated awareness on a topic we must tackle – preventing suicide through strengthening our Air Force family. As a sitting commander, I take this issue very seriously and care about every single one of our Airmen. I would do anything to help any one of them who may be suffering.

As I have expressed to the Airmen of the 2nd Bomb Wing time and time again; my biggest fear is that Airmen become so overwhelmed with life and work, that they feel as though they have nowhere to go, when in fact, they have an entire Air Force family to turn to.

I want all Airmen to know that they are surrounded by a family who cares for and values them. We have the will, resolve and support in place to assist any member that is struggling. They are never alone or without help. Last Friday, I challenged and pleaded every Airmen of the 2nd Bomb Wing who is struggling to call me. I want them to know they are not alone."

If you’re thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, the Lifeline network is available 24/7 across the United States. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) to reach a trained counselor. Use that same number and press "1" to reach the Veterans Crisis Line.

A UH-60 Black Hawk departs from The Rock while conducting Medevac 101 training with members of the 386th Expeditionary Medical Group, Feb. 16, 2019. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys)

A Minnesota Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter with three Guardsmen aboard crashed south of St. Cloud on Thursday, said National Guard spokeswoman Army Master Sgt. Blair Heusdens.

At this time, the National Guard is not releasing any information about the status of the three people aboard the helicopter, Heusdens told Task & Purpose on Thursday.

Read More Show Less

The Pentagon's latest attempt to twist itself in knots to deny that it is considering sending up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East has a big caveat.

Pentagon spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said there are no plans to send that many troops to the region "at this time."

Farah's statement does not rule out the possibility that the Defense Department could initially announce a smaller deployment to the region and subsequently announce that more troops are headed downrange.

Read More Show Less

The Navy could send a second aircraft carrier to the Middle East if President Donald Trump orders a surge of forces to the region, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said on Thursday.

Gordon Lubold and Nancy Youssef of the Wall Street Journal first reported the United States is considering sending up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East to deter Iran from attacking U.S. forces and regional allies. The surge forces could include several ships.

Read More Show Less

I didn't think a movie about World War I would, or even could, remind me of Afghanistan.

Somehow 1917 did, and that's probably the highest praise I can give Sam Mendes' newest war drama: It took a century-old conflict and made it relatable.

Read More Show Less

An internal investigation spurred by a nude photo scandal shows just how deep sexism runs in the Marine Corps

"I will still have to work harder to get the perception away from peers and seniors that women can't do the job."

news
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Some years ago, a 20-year-old female Marine, a military police officer, was working at a guard shack screening service members and civilians before they entered the base. As a lance corporal, she was new to the job and the duty station, her first in the Marine Corps.

At some point during her shift, a male sergeant on duty drove up. Get in the car, he said, the platoon sergeant needs to see you. She opened the door and got in, believing she was headed to see the enlisted supervisor of her platoon.

Instead, the sergeant drove her to a dark, wooded area on base. It was deserted, no other Marines were around. "Hey, I want a blowjob," the sergeant told her.

"What am I supposed, what do you do as a lance corporal?" she would later recall. "I'm 20 years old ... I'm new at this. You're the only leadership I've ever known, and this is what happens."

She looked at him, then got out of the car and walked away. The sergeant drove up next to her and tried to play it off as a prank. "I'm just fucking with you," he said. "It's not a big deal."

It was one story among hundreds of others shared by Marines for a study initiated in July 2017 by the Marine Corps Center for Advanced Operational Culture Learning (CAOCL). Finalized in March 2018, the center's report was quietly published to its website in September 2019 with little fanfare.

The culture of the Marine Corps is ripe for analysis. A 2015 Rand Corporation study found that women felt far more isolated among men in the Corps, while the Pentagon's Office of People Analytics noted in 2018 that female Marines rated hostility toward them as "significantly higher" than their male counterparts.

But the center's report, Marines' Perspectives on Various Aspects of Marine Corps Organizational Culture, offers a proverbial wakeup call to leaders, particularly when paired alongside previous studies, since it was commissioned by the Marine Corps itself in the wake of a nude photo sharing scandal that rocked the service in 2017.

The scandal, researchers found, was merely a symptom of a much larger problem.

Read More Show Less