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Andersen airman was under mental scrutiny before death

Sep. 12, 2013 - 08:53PM   |  
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BOISE, IDAHO — An Idaho airman was stripped of her service revolver over mental health concerns, but her weapons privileges had been restored about a month before she used the gun to kill herself, according to military records released Thursday.

Airman 1st Class Kelsey Sue Anderson, of Orofino, died June 9, 2011, at Andersen Air Force Base on Guam. Her parents filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court this year to force the Air Force to turn over its investigation records in her death, saying officials had concealed details.

Chris and Adelia Sue Anderson received the documents in July, and are no longer pursuing their lawsuit. The Associated Press received the same documents Thursday from a separate public records request.

The newly released information includes hundreds of pages from military investigators that indicate the 19-year-old Anderson was deeply unhappy with her assignment at the base on the U.S. territory about 3,300 miles west of Hawaii. She asked to be reassigned or allowed to leave the service.

In early May 2011, a few months after her arrival, Anderson’s weapons privileges were suspended for up to four days after concerns emerged about her mental health.

Anderson was referred to counseling, according to heavily redacted statements from superiors, though the extent of assistance she sought or received is unclear. She told Air Force officials her mother had cancer, and she sought a humanitarian reassignment closer to her north-central Idaho home, according to the reports.

“We placed her on the ‘Do Not Arm’ roster for a cycle so she could get some help for the stressful situation,” wrote one person, apparently one of Anderson’s superiors, who was interviewed.

“I let her know that there were tons of resources out there to help her, and we would do all we could to support her during this time,” the statement read.

Adelia Sue Anderson said Thursday that she doesn’t have cancer. She says her daughter lied out of increasing desperation to leave Guam.

“They put her on suicide watch,” she said. “If you knew my daughter, she would try her best to make it work.”

The Andersons say they remain frustrated that it took about a year — and a federal lawsuit — before getting the information regarding their daughter’s death.

Additionally, they say Air Force personnel didn’t adequately respond to signs of their daughter’s growing depression, including a dorm in disarray, exhaustion, disheveled appearance and bouts with crying, according to documents.

“The girl was having problems. She needed help. She should have had her gun taken away from her” again, said Chris Anderson. “They should have contacted us.”

Kelsey Anderson’s Air Force colleagues said she arrived at a meeting hours before her death with sloppy hair, and puffy, red eyes. They say she avoided contact with them.

“Kelsey did not look herself,” one person wrote in an interview.

Late Thursday, Air Force Capt. Jody Ritchie in Washington, D.C., said he was aware of Anderson’s case but needed to contact appropriate military officials before providing a comment.

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