Recognition, intervention and compassion saved Airman’s life

Senior Airman Christopher Wy, 341st Security Forces Support Squadron convoy response force lead, center, poses for a photo with Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Bowen, 341st SSPTS CRF team leader, left, and Senior Airman Cassi Dornon, 341st SSPTS CRF team member Jan. 16, 2019, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. Dornon and Bowen helped their wingman with a tough life situation.

Senior Airman Christopher Wy, 341st Security Forces Support Squadron convoy response force lead, center, poses for a photo with Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Bowen, 341st SSPTS CRF team leader, left, and Senior Airman Cassi Dornon, 341st SSPTS CRF team member Jan. 16, 2019, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. Dornon and Bowen helped their wingman with a tough life situation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Daniel Brosam)

MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- At Wing One, taking care of the Airmen, families and other people who support the mission is a core value and priority of the men and women at the 341st Missile Wing.

This includes recognizing when a wingman shows signs they are struggling with something in life to the point where it's affecting their day-to-day job, their career decisions, their social behavior and their personal actions, and then taking steps to do something about it.

Three people at Malmstrom have recently talked about their story of how--when faced with a difficult and complex issue involving suicide--that recognition of the signs, intervention with action and compassion for a wingman, helped save one of Malmstrom's own.

Senior Airman Cassi Dornon, 341st Security Forces Support Squadron convoy response force, and Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Bowen, 341st SSPTS CRF team leader, recognized the signs of struggle and depression in a friend and fellow wingman, and then launched an intervention that likely saved the life of Senior Airman Christopher Wy, SSPTS CRF lead.

Dornon and Bowen have always said Wy is a superb Airman, friend and teammate.

Wy is outgoing, loves to have fun and is a very hard worker and it showed in his job, so no one suspected he had any issues, Dornon and Bowen said.

Though no one knew, Wy was struggling in a complicated personal relationship that was spiraling out of his control.

And then Wy started to exhibit signs and behaviors that did not go unnoticed.

A situation that I needed help with
"I was in a very toxic relationship for five years," Wy said. "Before seeking help, I was turning a blind eye to it, kind of living in a fantasy thinking everything was sunshine and rainbows, and I kept all the bad parts of it in my head, reliving the things that made me feel awful over and over again."

"Feeling bad for that long eventually caught up to me last year and I found myself in a situation that I needed help with," he said. Wy admitted to having very bad thoughts. He also didn't know how to ask for help.

After returning from a temporary duty assignment, Dornon and Bowen said Wy began to exhibit warning signs that society and the U.S. Air Force are teaching everyone to watch out for.

Dornon said that Wy's text messages and phone conversations started to change.

He was beginning to make jokes and statements that were getting darker in tone, she said.

"I started getting worried and I tried taking him to the chaplain but he didn't want to go," Dornon said. "I told him he needed to keep talking to me then."

Dornon did keep talking to him, she said, and then it seemed Wy reached a point of peace, so she decided to give him a few days to have some privacy for his thoughts.

But then my situation changed for the worse, Wy said.

"I just couldn't take the fighting, the constant arguing, staying up late and barely getting any sleep," Wy said.

After he reached that decision--that he couldn't take it anymore and wanted out--Wy texted Dornon that he was sorry about everything, that things were too much for him to handle, and he wasn't OK.

"I asked him if he was thinking about hurting himself and he just said he was sorry," Dornon said. "And then he stopped talking to me."

After numerous repeated efforts to contact Wy went unanswered, Dornon reached Bowen and told her something was wrong with Wy.

"I don't think he's OK, and I think he needs our help," Dornon told Bowen. The two wingmen had no judgements about Wy's situation, they only wanted to prevent Wy from doing something desperate or in despair.

Bowen immediately got additional information and made her way to Wy's dormitory.

There was some heart-thumping silence at first when I went to his dorm and started banging on his door, Bowen said.

"All I'm thinking is 'God, please don't let something bad be behind this door'," Bowen said. "Please let him open the door."

Dornon and Bowen were frightened for the worst: that he would end his life.

A turning point
But Wy eventually opened the door while Bowen was banging on it. And with that he opened the door to getting help. This was a turning point.

He decided to seek help with mental health at Malmstrom.

"That started my progress to where I'm at right now," Wy said. "Seeking mental health was scary at first. I didn't know what would happen to me career wise or how everyone would see me."

Wy began attending group therapy and speaking to a therapist about his problems, meeting people along the way who shared similar stories of complex situations and feeling like it was all too much. He discovered he wasn't alone and that getting help is not a weakness, it's a strength.

"Going to see professionals really helped me push to get better," Wy said. "Honestly, if it wasn't for Dornon and Bowen I wouldn't be here."

Bowen said she is thankful Dornon was available to Wy in his time of need, and is proud of Wy for his decision to get help.

"He is very brave to open up and seek the help," Bowen said. "I'm thankful for the help he found and for the friends and family that he has."

"I think the biggest piece in coming back from something like that is the people you surround yourself with," Bowen continued. "Wy surrounded himself with all kinds of family. I'm really glad because he is such an exceptional young man, and I'm very glad he is my Airman."

Wy continues to improve every day and emphasizes the importance of seeking help from available resources.

Something that I really want people to realize is that the people who are professionals in mental health and mental wellness are there for us, Wy said.

"Mental health is not going to do anything to push you out of the military. They are going to do everything in their power to get you back up and get you well," he said.

Wy has new tools to battle any future situations, and has made it through one of life's rough patches.

Wy's message is that people are resilient. Though sometimes, he said, people may find themselves in a situation that has grown abysmal and uncontrollable, but no matter what it is, there is help.

He wants people to know that tough situations are a part of life where they must face transitions and change, and that sometimes a person needs help when faced with a tough situation and that's OK.

He believes others can be helped, too, but they need to choose it and reach out.

"I want people to take suicide and depression seriously," Wy said. He hopes his story makes an impact on culture and shows people what recognition of the signs, intervention with action and compassion for others can accomplish: saving a life.

Wy said he is thankful for the way events transpired and where he is today. He credits Bowen and Dornon, the mental health professionals at Malmstrom, family and friends--and himself because he made the choice and did the work--for saving his life.

If you would like to hear Wy, Bowen and Dornon tell this own story in their own words, please see the 341st Missile Wing public affairs video at

 If at any time you, or anyone you know, feel at risk for hurting yourself or others, there are numbers to call.

For help resources, please see below:
Chaplain (non-duty hours) -- (406) 731-3801
Voice of Hope, Great Falls -- (406) 453-4357
Malmstrom AFB Mental Health Clinic -- (406) 731-4451
National Suicide Prevention Hotline -- 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Military One Source 24-7 -- 1-800-342-9647
Malmstrom AFB Military Child Life Consultant -- (406) 224-3813 (8 a.m. to 8 p.m.)
Malmstrom AFB Military Family Life Consultant -- (406) 750-8481/8061
Malmstrom AFB Sexual Assault Program Coordinator -- (406) 731-4225
Malmstrom AFB Family Advocacy -- (406) 731-2161
Malmstrom AFB Violence Prevention -- (406) 731-1499

USAF Comments Policy
If you wish to comment, use the text box below. AF reserves the right to modify this policy at any time.

This is a moderated forum. That means all comments will be reviewed before posting. In addition, we expect that participants will treat each other, as well as our agency and our employees, with respect. We will not post comments that contain abusive or vulgar language, spam, hate speech, personal attacks, violate EEO policy, are offensive to other or similar content. We will not post comments that are spam, are clearly "off topic", promote services or products, infringe copyright protected material, or contain any links that don't contribute to the discussion. Comments that make unsupported accusations will also not be posted. The AF and the AF alone will make a determination as to which comments will be posted. Any references to commercial entities, products, services, or other non-governmental organizations or individuals that remain on the site are provided solely for the information of individuals using this page. These references are not intended to reflect the opinion of the AF, DoD, the United States, or its officers or employees concerning the significance, priority, or importance to be given the referenced entity, product, service, or organization. Such references are not an official or personal endorsement of any product, person, or service, and may not be quoted or reproduced for the purpose of stating or implying AF endorsement or approval of any product, person, or service.

Any comments that report criminal activity including: suicidal behaviour or sexual assault will be reported to appropriate authorities including OSI. This forum is not:

  • This forum is not to be used to report criminal activity. If you have information for law enforcement, please contact OSI or your local police agency.
  • Do not submit unsolicited proposals, or other business ideas or inquiries to this forum. This site is not to be used for contracting or commercial business.
  • This forum may not be used for the submission of any claim, demand, informal or formal complaint, or any other form of legal and/or administrative notice or process, or for the exhaustion of any legal and/or administrative remedy.

AF does not guarantee or warrant that any information posted by individuals on this forum is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. AF may not be able to verify, does not warrant or guarantee, and assumes no liability for anything posted on this website by any other person. AF does not endorse, support or otherwise promote any private or commercial entity or the information, products or services contained on those websites that may be reached through links on our website.

Members of the media are asked to send questions to the public affairs through their normal channels and to refrain from submitting questions here as comments. Reporter questions will not be posted. We recognize that the Web is a 24/7 medium, and your comments are welcome at any time. However, given the need to manage federal resources, moderating and posting of comments will occur during regular business hours Monday through Friday. Comments submitted after hours or on weekends will be read and posted as early as possible; in most cases, this means the next business day.

For the benefit of robust discussion, we ask that comments remain "on-topic." This means that comments will be posted only as it relates to the topic that is being discussed within the blog post. The views expressed on the site by non-federal commentators do not necessarily reflect the official views of the AF or the Federal Government.

To protect your own privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information, such as name, Social Security number, DoD ID number, OSI Case number, phone numbers or email addresses in the body of your comment. If you do voluntarily include personally identifiable information in your comment, such as your name, that comment may or may not be posted on the page. If your comment is posted, your name will not be redacted or removed. In no circumstances will comments be posted that contain Social Security numbers, DoD ID numbers, OSI case numbers, addresses, email address or phone numbers. The default for the posting of comments is "anonymous", but if you opt not to, any information, including your login name, may be displayed on our site.

Thank you for taking the time to read this comment policy. We encourage your participation in our discussion and look forward to an active exchange of ideas.