Your article ["Broken Wings," City Weekly, July 10] was heartbreaking.
I left Hill Air Force Base in October 2012 because the toxic work environment was destroying me. I am still recovering from the anxiety. I never trusted the Wingman program or any of the other "resources" at HAFB. I met with a private counselor, who helped me a lot, but eventually, I had to pay for my therapy out of pocket because my insurance company refused to pay after a while.
There are three events related to on-base suicides that I wanted to talk about. The first was an utterly shocking article in the Hilltop Times about one of the suicides. In the article, the victim's widow said that it was all his fault: He had willingly injured himself, become addicted to prescription painkillers and then killed himself. I couldn't believe that they published such vitriolic slander against one of our fellow wingmen. I was deeply disturbed by it.
The second incident occurred on a Sunday during a church meeting. I am a Latter-day Saint, and we learned that the HAFB chaplain had requested that LDS Church leaders do more to prevent suicides among our members that worked at Hill AFB. The chaplain had said that eight of the 11 suicide victims were LDS. We felt like we were being blamed for the suicides on the base; the suicides were mostly a Mormon problem.
Finally, the base commander ordered that everyone on base be tested for drug use. They claimed that we would be randomly selected, but since they intended to test all of us, we would be notified to appear at a special office to provide a urine sample in random order. A few of us were selected each month. When I was selected, I was extremely nervous and unable to provide the requested urine sample. I was pressured to drink a lot of water. I began to feel drowsy and lethargic. I was not permitted to leave until I successfully peed in the cup. I fell asleep. The program manager became angry and scolded me for falling asleep. At 4:30 p.m., I was told that I had to leave and that my supervisor would be notified that I refused to provide a urine sample. Later that evening, I visited the bathroom five or six times.
When I arrived at work the next morning, my supervisor said that I had to go again to provide a sample. When I arrived, the program manager who had scolded me the previous day told me that it was too late and that I would have to deal with the consequences. I then had to call the private contractor who was analyzing the urine. He suggested that I should visit with my personal physician to provide a medical reason why I could not void. My family doctor was disgusted and sent a snarky note telling them that I was obviously dehydrated and that three hours wasn't enough time to expect my body to process the water.
I later read about multiple cases of airmen suffering from water toxicity after consuming too much water during the drug test. They all claimed that they had been pressured to keep drinking until they were able to urinate. My supervisor said that the program manger was now out to get me and I had better be careful. I had to talk to the contractor's doctor two more times before he decided that I wasn't a drug user.
I resented being accused of drug use and being forced to prove otherwise or else risk losing my job. This was when I seriously began looking for work elsewhere. This experience is not the only reason why I left, but it was a significant factor.
Thank you for doing good investigative reporting. However, I doubt anything will change at Hill AFB.
Mill Creek, Wash.
Correction: The article "Pizza Party" [July 31, City Weekly] should have referred to Fire & Slice Pizza Mobile Wood Fired Pizza (FireAndSlicePizza.com), which appears Sundays at the Wasatch Front Farmers Market at Wheeler Farm (6351 S. 900 East, Murray).