Feature Search

Harnessing Resilience to Overcome Invisible Wounds and Regain Control over Life

Reality hit when then Airman First Class Brittany Johnson of the 49th Logistics Readiness Squadron left the hospital in September 2010 after a week-long stay for sexual and physical assault. “I didn’t feel like myself,” recalls Johnson, now a Technical Sergeant with the 36th Civil Engineering Squadron. “I couldn’t find joy in activities anymore.”

Reality hit when then Airman First Class Brittany Johnson of the 49th Logistics Readiness Squadron left the hospital in September 2010 after a week-long stay for sexual and physical assault. “I didn’t feel like myself,” recalls Johnson, now a Technical Sergeant with the 36th Civil Engineering Squadron. “I couldn’t find joy in activities anymore.” (Courtesy Photo)


Reality hit when then Airman First Class Brittany Johnson of the 49th Logistics Readiness Squadron left the hospital in September 2010 after a week-long stay for sexual and physical assault. “I didn’t feel like myself,” recalls Johnson, now a Technical Sergeant with the 36th Civil Engineering Squadron. “I couldn’t find joy in activities anymore.”

Back at home on convalescent leave, Johnson found herself reliving memories of her assault. She couldn’t move on from her traumatic experience and started having nightmares, flashbacks, and panic attacks. Waking up in a dark room or coming across reminders of her attacker, like a similar last name, haircut, or car model he drove, would trigger her symptoms.

Her symptoms had a large impact on her daily life. She became distrustful of people and withdrew from personal interactions, including her 19-month-old daughter. Johnson lost interest in all activities she had enjoyed before, even those as simple as taking a walk. “I wanted to sleep all day even though I couldn’t fall asleep,” recalls Johnson as she often was too tired to get out of bed.

Johnson felt her life slipping away from her control until a conversation with her mother made her pause. “How can you take care of anyone else until you take care of yourself,” Johnson remembers her mother’s words. “How can you pour from a cup that’s empty?” Those words stuck with Johnson. Having the support of her family gave Johnson the strength to reach out for help so she could take back power over her life.

In October, one month after leaving the hospital, Johnson made an appointment at the Mental Health Clinic and talked to her supervisor, as a courtesy while still on convalescent leave, to let him know she was seeking treatment. The provider diagnosed her with PTSD, anxiety, and depression and recommended a mix of therapy and medication.

“In the beginning, I was the roadblock,” Johnson talks about her early days of treatment. “I was so shut down that I had a hard time opening up and talking about what happened.” But the providers were supportive and worked with Johnson to personalize her treatment, including helping Johnson open up by switching her to a different therapist with whom she felt a more personal connection.

As Johnson went back to work in December, she at first tried to hide her state of mind and “put on a happy face” to show she was OK. But after going home from work, she wouldn’t eat and would feel sad and cry most days. “I didn’t know what normal or happy were anymore,” says Johnson.

Then Johnson’s leadership stepped in. They supported Johnson’s desire to return to work, and also encouraged her to seek any additional help she needed. Unit support was important to Johnson, and it helped her overcome concerns about seeking various resources to help work through her experiences.

“My leadership would check in on me asking questions like, ‘How has it been going?’ or ‘Is there anything I could do to help you?’ And they really meant it,” recalls Johnson. “My supervisor at the time really cared about my wellbeing.” Her supervisor also made sure she took the time to go to her mental health appointments and that she wasn’t scheduled for any work tasks or meetings during those times. “We have a great relationship and still talk to this day even though he’s retired. He still checks in on me.”

With trusted advocates behind her, Johnson turned her life around. “Treatment helped me regain control over my life,” says Johnson. Seeking help gave her the tools to understand her feelings and how to manage her symptoms. “I started to recognize my triggers,” adds Johnson. “I understood when my panic attacks would begin, so I would pause to breathe and use coping techniques, like the 5-4-3-2-1 method, to take back control over the situation.”

As Johnson started to learn how to manage her invisible wounds, her weekly therapy sessions became biweekly, monthly, and finally, as needed. Within the first two years of treatment, Johnson completed medication and therapy, after which her therapist told Johnson she could still set up an appointment whenever she needed to talk. “I still occasionally go to therapy to maintain my mental health and stay resilient.”

“Seeking treatment definitely helped my career and made my life better overall,” says Johnson. “I’m better able to help myself and others. I’ve learned to listen and process my emotions and can now take a step back from a situation and process what’s going on first before reacting.”

Seeking treatment also helped Johnson create a more supportive culture for Airmen at work, especially as she continued to move up the ranks and took on more leadership responsibilities over the last decade. A lot of Airmen now come to her for advice, “They’re comfortable asking me for help or talking with me about personal hardships or challenges in their lives.”

Johnson wishes more Airmen would ask for help to look after themselves. “You can’t properly do your job if you’re not 100% OK, especially if you’re in a leadership position,” Johnson reminds all Airmen. “It’s a snowball effect, everything starts with you.” Johnson has the following advice for Airmen, caregivers, and leaders:

Airmen: “Take care of yourself first. Never be ashamed of what you went through. Never be ashamed to speak out. Never be ashamed to get help.”

Caregivers: “Be patient with your Airman. Encourage them to figure out what works for them, but they have to do the work themselves. Treatment won’t be beneficial unless they are willing to do the work to get better.”

Leaders: “Be empathetic towards your Airmen and be ready to have difficult conversations. Do whatever it takes to create a supportive culture for your Airmen, so they are comfortable and trust you enough to come forward and ask for help.”

Social Media

Facebook Twitter
Not just a right - It's your responsibility. #Vote
Tomorrow (Jan 31st) CE Customer Service and both Andersen Family and Unaccompanied Housing Offices will be closed from 11 A.M.–4 P.M. For emergencies, please see additional information below: CE Customer Service: For any emergency issues, please call 366-2916/2917/2918. All other non-emergency issues can be sent to the CE Customer Service email org box at 36ces.service@us.af.mil. Housing Office: For any urgent Housing matters, please call 366-6240 or 653-4731. Normal operating hours will resume Monday, 3 February. Thank you, 36th Civil Engineer Squadron
The Readiness & Emergency Management Flight will be conducting training today (Jan 30) from 7 A.M. to 4:30 P.M.. It will involve personnel driving around base in MOPP 4 and setting out detectors on main base. It is all for training purpose only.
Congratulations to our 4th Quarterly Award winners! Airman of the Quarter: SrA Tiffany Arquette- 36th Mission Support Group Non-commissioned Officer of the Quarter: SSgt Bryan Koch- 36th Mission Support Group Senior Non-commissioned Officer of the Quarter: MSgt Coreena Dejesus-36th Wing Staff Agency Company Grade Officer of the Quarter: 2Lt Megan Barrick- 36th Maintenance Group Civilian Category I of the Quarter: Mr. Nathan Atalig- 36th Mission Support Group Civilian Category II of the Quarter: Mr. Shawn McMahon – 36th Mission Support Group Civilian Category III of the Quarter: Ms. Lucy Benavente - 36th Wing Staff Agency Honor Guard of the Quarter: SrA Brandi Dennis – 36th Communications Squadron Volunteer of the Quarter: SSgt Duawana Robinson – 36th Maintenance Group Team of the Quarter: Family Health- 36th Medical Group
Don't miss this great training opportunity on Sexual Assault Awareness, Prevention, and Bystander Intervention, 31st Jan, 11 A.M. at the Meehan Theater. This event is FREE and open to all! Joint Region Marianas
Andersen is proud to host the U.S. Navy's Tritons!
Congratulations to Staff Sgt. Jolesa Scott from the 36th Force Support Squadron team for being recognized as one of Team Andersen's Best! Great job!
#TeamAndersenDYK the fire prevention experts recommend to never leave open flames or cooking unattended, to check lint traps regularly as well as checking electrical outlets to make sure they are being used properly. In addition, family members of all ages should know and follow a shared emergency escape plan. Andersen firefighters recommend that, in case of fire, residents use their established escape plan and proceed to a designated rally point, a safe distance away from the flames and smoke. Once outside, immediately call 911 and describe the situation to dispatchers as calmly as possible. Fires happen sporadically, so please pay attention to your housekeeping, your surroundings and when you’re cooking or even just near a flame. #safety
Calling all football fans and history buffs!!! Immediately after World War II, the American military stationed in the South Pacific began playing full-contact football - pads and all. Andersen Air Force Base's Gilkeson Field, named after Brig. Gen. Adlai H. Gilkeson, commanding general of the 19th Bombardment Wing from 1949 to 1951, served as home of the North Field Bombers, the base football team! Teams in Japan, the Philippines, and Guam played in local military leagues, occasionally flying long distances to compete. A league champ on Guam wasn't determined until 1947, when the 1st Marine Brigade and the 501st Port Battalion tied for the island championship. The North Field (later Andersen) Bombers went undefeated in the 1948 season to capture the island title, which began a long legacy of the most successful football team on Guam for the next 34 years. The Bombers won at least 17 league/island championships - including 11 titles in a row from 1955 to 1966. The last Bomber championship was in 1974. Other teams on the island were also rich in tradition and history. In short, while the Navy dominated the league with their number of teams in action, it was the Andersen Bombers that dominated on the scoreboard and in the standings. The Bombers lasted until the leagues' end after the 1981 season. #TeamAndersen #TBT #NorthFieldBombers Joint Region Marianas US Naval Base Guam U.S. Pacific Air Forces 1st Marine Brigade
Every flight starts with planning! And a trip to Aircrew Flight Equipment. AFE Airmen maintain equipment used by pilots, which are essential for survival capabilities. AFE Airmen provide direct support to the Continuous Bomber Presence. Thanks, AFE!
The United States, along with Mexico and the Philippines, were ranked one of the world's worst places for human trafficking in 2018. In the U.S., there is no official number of human trafficking victims, but estimates place it in the hundreds of thousands. Look for these indicators to help combat human trafficking.
WARNING: Security Forces will deny access to the base and/or issue fines for not updating your vehicle registration or not having insurance.
Exercise the very right you protect - your right to vote! We can help with registering to vote, requesting an absentee ballot and notifying your local election officials back home of a change of address. Below is Voter Registration application, Absentee Ballot Request form (SF-76), and mailing address. This form is for Uniformed Service members, family members of voting age, DoD civilians, and citizens residing outside the United States. You may access many voting related questions and answers on the FVAP website at http://www.fvap.gov. Please click the link below to access the direct-to-voter training video which goes through the process step by step. https://www.fvap.gov/militaryhowto If you have any questions please contact your designated squadron UVAO or IVAO at DSN: 366-8137 or email: Andersen.vote@us.af.mil
Congratulations to Staff Sgt. Shannen Lisbourne from the 36th WG/JA team for being recognized as one of Team Andersen's Best! Great job!
#TeamAndersenDYK every day in the United States, about 10 people die from unintentional drowning, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury death in the U.S. Many Airmen and families enjoy swimming within the shallow water, but some choose to swim beyond the reef into deeper depths. Since there is no continental shelf around Guam, the landmass underwater does not have a gradual slope; therefore, the water depth drops suddenly. Swimmers are advised not to swim beyond the reef and into the deep open water to avoid hazardous waves and currents or other harmful conditions. Alcohol is also a major cause of water-related incidents. Among adolescents and adults, alcohol use is involved in up to 70 percent of deaths associated with water recreation, according to the CDC. Drinking alcohol causes a lack of coordination, disturbance of the inner ear, impaired reaction time and impaired judgment, which can cause someone to become injured or drown while swimming. Please be safe when out swimming. Never swim alone, drink while swimming, and pay attention to the flag conditions. #safety
Way to go, Security Forces! Sen. Joe San Augustin from the 35th Guam Legislature presented Airmen from the 36th Security Forces Squadron with a legislative resolution and certificates of appreciation, recognizing their volunteer efforts throughout the island community, Jan.16 at Tarague Beach. #TeamAndersen #OneGuam #Community #GoodNeighbors The Office of Senator Joe S. San Agustin Joint Region Marianas U.S. Pacific Air Forces The Guam Legislature
Showing love to Guam and promoting #environmental stewardship with #partners! Airmen from the 506th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron and 190th Air Refueling Wing - Kansas Air National Guard partnered with Sailors from Commander, Submarine Squadron Fifteen and members of Love Guam for a roadside cleanup Jan. 11 in Yigo. #OneGuam #GreenGuam #GoodNeighbors #Community #TeamAndersen #TeamAndersenTBT Joint Region Marianas U.S. Pacific Air Forces Yigo Mayor's Office
The "First Lady" of Andersen Air Force Base has retired. Please join Team Andersen in giving our thanks and well wishes to Mrs. Joyce Martratt after her more than 54 years of service to the U.S. Air Force. Mrs. Joyce has been guiding and assisting the leadership of AAFB as an invaluable secretary since the height of the Vietnam war. Serving with 27 general officers during her tenure, she has been essential in the continued success of Andersen, and by extension the security and safety of the indo-pacific region. Thank you for all that you have done for all of us in Team Andersen and may you have a blessed retirement. Si Yu'us ma'åse' Mrs. Joyce U.S. Pacific Air Forces U.S. Indo-Pacific Command #retirement