On March 26th and March 27th the Colorado Springs Air Force lost two cadets to suicide. The families have been informed, and identities of the two cadets have been kept confidential.
In emails obtained by the Gazette, students expressed to the academy that the deaths of the two cadets might be due to depression related to strict social distancing policies and punishments for violating the six-foot distance protocols.
In an email written by the Superintendent of Colorado Springs Air Force Academy, Jay Silveria, he addresses the measures that are being taken by the Academy to support the nearly 1,000 senior students who are poised to graduate and become lieutenants in 59 days.
69 of these students will be among the first lieutenants to join the new Space Force
Silveria addressed concerns with future management of health for those who remain at the academy during this time of nation-wide restrictions on business, travel, and social gatherings.
“We are having discussions with our healthcare professionals about how to balance cadet safety during a pandemic with providing the same sense of family and teamwork cadets are used to.”
The Air Force, unlike the Navy and Army who sent all cadets home, only sent 3,000 underclassmen home as a precautionary measure to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The 1,000 senior students remaining were separated in isolated rooms.
Students were threatened with punishment for breaking social distancing policies implemented by the Air Force including “tours” of marching practice. These senior students were also only permitted food from the on campus dining facility.
“Marching “tours” have long been the punishment of choice for cadet scofflaws at the school, and now will be used to target cadets who ignore the school’s strict social-distancing rules,” says senior Military editor of the Gazette, Tom Roeder.
“In a note to cadets that was obtained by The Gazette, leaders said 30 “tours” will be levied for those found too close to their classmates.”
The Colorado Air Force Academy senior students have now been permitted to have a roommate again if they elect to have one again. Students may also have alcohol where that is allowed on base, and small gatherings that follow the local safety standards. Students may also leave the academy for take-out food.
Although there are some who have expressed concern that these new policies will present risk of spread of the coronavirus, many stand by the choice to minimize the sense of isolation.
If you or a loved one are having suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.