MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan --
For first-term Airmen, being stationed at an overseas base can be difficult. Learning how to live on their own, wrestling with the time difference and finding moments to communicate with family and friends stateside can pose a challenge. Sometimes loneliness can start to creep in.
“When I left home in Mississippi, I felt like the rug was snatched from under me,” recalled Airman Austin Clay, a 35th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron weapons journeyman. “I was lonely. I sat a lot in my room just thinking. Rationalizing. Asking ‘did I make the right decision coming to Misawa?’”
A lot of Airmen had different opinions for Clay on how to overcome this sense of loneliness, but he decided to find his own route to happiness and fulfillment.
“Most people tend to go to the gym when they get stressed out by the loneliness,” explained Clay. “I, on the other hand, love to sing, write and travel. Exploring this new country with my new-found friends is how I choose to cope with this change.”
Clay added that people do not have to travel far from base to have fun. He explains what attractions he found in the local community.
“I find joy right here in Misawa,” said Clay. “I go to the local park, relax, take a deep breath and envision what my life was like prior to living in Japan. Realizing I can do and see things others cannot gives me a sense of incomparable pride.”
Clay explained being able to accomplish something for not only himself but also his mother means a lot to him because his mother had always wanted to join the military and explore the world but never could. He feels he's doing something greater than himself.
Clay said it’s hard sometimes keeping a positive attitude when he works such long hours but understands the importance of his mission and the F-16 Fighting Falcon.
“I grew up believing a man’s job is to maintain his household,” said Clay. “In life, you have to sustain a sense of positivity to continue growing. It’s important to preserve a social life as well as a clear state of mind regardless of the demanding workload.”
As a member of the 35th MXG, Clay found himself maintaining more than just the jets out on the flightline; Clay embraced his friends and supervisors for support.
“To complete the mission, you need to be ready in every aspect, not just physically, but emotionally, mentally and spiritually,” explained Senior Airman Jeremiah Gay, a 35th MXS electrical and environmental technician. “You need to know your fellow Airmen and be able to recognize when they aren’t themselves.”
The Air Force encourages supervisors to know their Airmen, but in return, every Airmen should be motivated enough to know their fellow wingmen.
“Our force resiliency depends on our care for each other,” said Gay. “Preventing someone from going into a downward spiral of sadness or depression can possibly be eliminated by simply engaging in conversation or offering a helping hand.”
According to Clay, exploring is a good way to move past the feelings of loneliness, frustration or sadness.
Clay said it’s all about perspective. With a positive perspective, there is no limit to the opportunities people can experience.
“Life is based on how you look at a situation,” said Clay. “If you feel as though you don’t want to be here and this experience is going to suck, then it’s going to suck. If you believe you are going to have fun and make new and fun memories, then you will have a good time and do just that.”
Clay said his biggest takeaway he hopes others will embrace includes getting out of their dorm rooms or houses, clean up and make some friends.
“Too many people lay in their beds all day, playing video games, watching shows on Netflix while eating a whole bag of chips by themselves, and I know that can get lonely, I’ve been there,” explained Clay. “Don’t miss out on what Japan has to offer by deliberately isolating yourself. Go out and explore; there are so many things you can do here in Misawa, you just have to be willing to get up and look for it.”