SJAFB Airman guides wingmen towards resilience

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Sabrina Fuller
  • 4th Fighter Wing

 – Imagine losing the most important person in your life. For one Airman this was his reality.

Tech. Sgt. Augustus Williams, 4th Fighter Wing drug demand reduction program manager, started his seven hour journey home to attend his brother's funeral by entering his car. During his drive, he passed old trees, multiple headlights, and disoriented drivers all the while thinking it must be a dream or an alternate reality.

“At the funeral, it… didn't hit me until the end," said Williams as he took a sharp breath in and paused in thought as he recollected the events of that day. "My brother died of lupus six years ago [in 2017]. He had a bad infection which caused the detriment. I remember getting a call from my mom saying he passed away."

His brother, Gerald A. Newton, was 37-years-old when he passed. Now, Williams is the same age as his brother was.

“He was the closest person I had in my life, besides my daughter," said Williams in a somber tone.

Unfortunately, Williams' misfortunes continued to build throughout that same year.

"I went through a divorce, my father and mother separated, then my aunt passed away," said Williams as a nervous laughter erupted. "I honestly never felt anything like that in my entire life. When I lost my brother I was at my lowest point."

Yet, thanks to his inner resilience he weathered these challenges and then was sent on a deployment. Aside from his personal storms, he was also facing professional ones as well. He was unable to make rank and was at risk of forced separation from the military.

"I battled day-to-day operations," an exasperated Williams said. He further explained that he felt lost and unsure of his purpose.

“During the struggle of finding a way to stay in [the U.S. Air Force], I thought of my daughter, who I wanted to provide a better life for," he said.

It was that motivation that helped him make rank and continue to serve in the military. He also used his personal experiences to find his purpose and become a master resilience trainer.

A master resilience trainer/resilience trainer assistant is an Airman who is trained to aid other Airmen in developing resiliency skills, including mental, physical, social and spiritual health.

Williams career in resilience started as a resilient trainer assistant and then after completing a week-long MRT course he became a certified master resilience trainer.

As a resilience trainer assistant, Williams drew upon his experiences as an adolescent to help mentor other Airmen.

He said his childhood was an uneasy one, where he had to share food, clothes and beds amongst seven other siblings. He adds that his grandmother helped provide a home for him and his brother until she passed away from cancer, which resulted in Williams and his brother being taken into foster care.

“Both of my parents were in prison at the same time," said Williams, his thumb unconsciously grazing his knuckles. “My dad didn't get released until I was in technical school and my mom didn't get released until I was 25-years-old.”

Through it all, Gerald was there with him and became the role model Williams needed.

He was also his inspiration. Whether it was through a friendly basketball match or providing for the community, Williams sought to be like his brother. Williams said it was his brother's mental fortitude and endurance, which motivated his career in the military as a master resilience trainer.

"My brother was such a big influence on me,” said Williams. “I believe that God and my brother are still guiding me to get me where I need to go.”

Williams' said his faith builds his resilience and encourages him to adapt to the difficult life experiences he has faced.

Today, Williams teaches resilience to Team Seymour's Airmen through classes offered in the First Term Airman Course and in Resiliency University.

Candance Young, 4th Fighter Wing prevention coordinator specialist, describes Williams as a driven and passionate instructor, who volunteers as often as he can to educate Airmen on resilience.
“He lets Airmen know they are not alone,” said Young. “His lessons are relatable and allow him to connect with other Airmen. He builds a common ground and shares his own experience and his resiliency skills so they can make a career out of the Air Force.”

As part of his duties as an instructor, Williams encourages other Airmen to build their resilience and ask for help when they need it.

“[For resiliency trainers] we don’t receive anything extra from teaching and facilitating classes,” said Williams. “For us, the benefit is seeing other people receive the information that we are trying to give them and then use that and apply it to their daily efforts.”

For Williams, as a trainer resilience trainer, he embodies the techniques he teaches thanks to the memories of his brother.

He recalled the final time he saw his role model. It was in the hospital room, the walls were colorless and Geralds’ bed was decorated with ivory sheets, pillows and blankets. His brother was lying in the center of the bed, and when Gerald noticed the approach of his young niece, he shuffled to the side for her to sit comfortably beside him. It’s a memory that Williams will never forget. He said it fuels his passion for teaching others.

Williams said, “from his memory, I try to achieve greatness in and outside of this uniform.”