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A wingman fights for mental strength on behalf of his friend

U.S. Air Force courtesy graphic

(U.S. Air Force courtesy graphic)

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill During an annual nuclear exercise called Global Thunder in October 2018, Master Sgt. Durel Williams, Air Mobility Command threat working group action officer, was in his office about to brief four Airmen at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, when his phone buzzed. It was his old supervisor. “Durel, I’m not sure if you know this or not, but Shane took his life last night.”

Williams closed the door leading into his office. He broke down in tears from hearing news about his good friend, Staff Sgt. Shane Appleton, who had given him a place to live, mentored him, and who had held him accountable.

“One day he approached me about a dress code violation on my uniform,” said Williams. “I looked at him and said ‘You got a set on you man, and I respect that’.”

After that moment shared by Williams and Appleton, they became very close. Their friendship started in 2013, but was unfortunately cut short. Williams recalled that he didn’t seem mentally distressed.

“The thing about Shane is he was a very happy person,” said Williams. “He was the salt of life type of a person.”

This incident made Williams feel that he needed to try and fight for mental strength. He found an app that could help him accomplish his personal mission. NeuroFlow provides mental health services and increases engagement with therapeutic practices. It also provides a synopsis on one’s mental state by focusing primarily on mental exercises and through the measurement of emotions.

“The leadership gets a chance to look at your progression of emotions,” said Williams. “It definitely provides a way of escape from staying in your mind.”

With NeuroFlow, it allows daily exercises to keep one’s mind active and strong. As two pillars of Comprehensive Airman Fitness, it is important for Airmen to spend time focusing on both the physical and mental needs. With this app, Williams found a way to link the two together – strengthening his foundation.

“I think it would help military members by providing them a daily psychology tool,” said Williams. “It helps them go through preventative maintenance for their mental health instead of reactionary maintenance.”

Williams believes that if this daily application was to be adopted by a portion of the Air Force, then maybe it would be able to be utilized by more military members. Williams has begun to spread the word of the application to in the 375th Security Forces Squadron.

Williams, who is a prior SFS Airman, believes that if their career field could adopt it – everyone could.

“We are a pretty stubborn career field,” said Williams. “If Security Forces airmen and sergeants can utilize NeuroFlow, then anyone in the Air Force can buy into this process.”

Williams wants this application to be pushed out to all military members and he believes that it could help mental health. He relates his message back to his friend.

“If Shane had this type of an app, his struggles would be charted, and maybe somebody would have noticed that there was an imminent suicide,” said Williams. “Shane, you are loved, appreciated and missed.”

Williams wants to fight for mental strength and daily maintenance. He believes this app is a great tool to help his wingmen with their mental health.

“I knew once I found the app’s team that I would not let Shane’s honor be lost, and the memory of his life wouldn’t go unaddressed,” said Williams. “It is my duty to make sure that if I could do something to honor him and to save lives in the future that I would do that.”