Shaw Air Force Base suspends physical fitness assessments after second airman dies from health complications in a week – Sumter Item
Shaw Air Force Base is suspending all physical fitness assessments after two airmen in their 30s who worked together died suddenly of health complications within the past week in separate indicents.
Col. Derek O’Malley, commander of the 20th Fighter Wing at Shaw, which is headquartered in Sumter and flies the Air Force’s largest combat F-16 wing, posted a statement to the base’s Facebook page saying the cause of death for the two airmen is not yet known and that base officials are exploring “every possibility to get the answers we need to prevent this from happening again.”
“It’s been a devastating couple of weeks here at Shaw with the loss of our teammates,” O’Malley wrote.
On Sunday, May 26, Senior Airman Amalia Joseph, 32, passed away at Prisma Health Tuomey Hospital at about 3:20 a.m. after suffering an unspecified health complication, according to previous reports from the 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs Office.
Less than a week later, 30-year-old Senior Airman Aaron Hall died at about 8:47 a.m. on Saturday, June 1 at Richland Memorial Hospital in Columbia from health complications.
O’Malley wrote the airmen died after “the completion of two separate official Air Force physical fitness assessments. They were both from our Component Maintenance Squadron and worked together in the Electronic Warfare section.”
“I have suspended all PT testing, and we’re looking closely at our processes and investigating their work environment for anything that may have contributed to these tragedies,” he wrote. “As you can imagine, we are struggling as a team after a very difficult last few weeks, but we will be as transparent as we possibly can as we work through this.”
He did not mention a third airman stationed at Shaw who died within the last two weeks in an unrelated incident. The 28-year-old man was found dead off-base from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to reports from the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office. He served in the Logistics Readiness Squadron as an aircraft parts store journeyman and had been reported missing by a family member a few days earlier.
The 20th CMS, where Joseph and Hall served, serves a combat-ready wing of approximately 79 F-16CM Fighting Falcons and equipment. It maintains jet engines, accessory and avionics components and systems and a test, measurement and diagnostic equipment laboratory in support of the wing’s three fighter squadrons, according to an Air Force fact sheet.
Maj. Jake Schillinger, commander of the 20th CMS, reported out eulogy comments for two of his airmen in one week.
He described Joseph as a valuable member of the team and a hard worker who was “determined to overcome any challenge she ever met and brought a personality and perspective to the 20th CMS that will never be replaced.”
Six days later, another press release read him remembering Hall as someone who “lit up every room he entered with his smile and positive approach to life.” He said Hall was “more than just a coworker. He was our teammate and our friend.”
O’Malley gave a promise to remember them.
“Their faces, their smiles, their laughter and the way they made us feel. We will honor their memories by striving to understand exactly what happened in each of these incidents, and we will do anything in our power to make sure these types of tragedies never happen again,” he said. “While these kinds of losses are part of life, especially in military service, that doesn’t make them any easier. Our lives were better because we knew them, but our squadrons are so much emptier without them. As time passes, the wing and our mission will get back to some version of normal, but for the families and friends of these fallen airmen, these losses will never be normal. They will need our close support, but just this week, but in the weeks, months and years to come.”