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Intelligence Specialist First Class Richard “Ricky” Ayala recorded and released an original song titled, “Hard Times” in September to coincide with the National Suicide Prevention Month. Ayala stated, “Hard Times is my way of reaching out to people who may be struggling mentally and contemplating suicide.”

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. –

A Navy intelligence specialist, assigned to Information Warfare Training Command Virginia Beach (IWTCVB) debuted a song to honor his friend, Sep. 3.

Intelligence Specialist First Class Richard “Ricky” Ayala recorded and released the original song titled, “Hard Times.”

Ayala released “Hard Times” in September to coincide with the National Suicide Prevention Month. Ayala stated, “Hard Times is my way of reaching out to people who may be struggling mentally and contemplating suicide.”

Ayala is currently stationed at Information Warfare Training Command Virginia Beach (IWTCVB), where he serves as the course supervisor for four instructional courses.

Ayala has been singing since he was a young child, performing at both the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and the Apollo Theater in New York City by the age of nine. Ayala’s passion for music and songwriting has continued during his time in the Navy. Ayala has been writing, producing, and releasing his own music throughout his time in service.

“Hard Times” was originally written in May of 2021 to detail the hardships Ayala faced after the removal of a brain tumor in April. With the removal came many unknowns, causing tremendous uncertainty in Ayala’s life, both personally and professionally. When asked about his feelings, Ayala said, “I struggled tremendously with how the uncertainty would impact my career, but more importantly, how I would support my family if I could no longer serve.”

While the song was originally written about his personal struggle, “Hard Times” took on a greater, more encompassing message in the months that followed. After losing a Center for Information Warfare Training (CIWT) shipmate to suicide this year, Ayala knew that his song would speak to others struggling with their own mental health. For this reason, Ayala delayed the release of the song to coincide with the National Suicide Prevention Month, to pay his respects to his friend, and increase conversations surrounding mental health at large.

Ayala expressed concern that mental health continues to be a topic that is not talked about enough. In the first line of Ayala’s song he states, “Don’t Take Life for Granted.” He chose these words because he feels they embody the message “that we need to check in on our friends, shipmates, and loved ones because you never know what the person next to you is going through, especially for those who put on a uniform every day.”

Lt. Cmdr. Ryan Wadington, IWTCVB Executive Officer, said, “Talking about mental health with Sailors and loved ones will always be a priority as suicide continues to be a leading cause of death within our ranks. Ayala’s song encourages conversation surrounding mental health topics, a critical component of suicide prevention.”

IWTCVB currently offers 59 courses of instruction in information technology, cryptology, and intelligence with an instructor and support staff of 278 military, civilian, and contract members who train over 6,600 students every year at 5 training sites in the Hampton Roads area. It is one of four school houses for Center for Information Warfare Training and also oversees learning sites at Jacksonville and Mayport, Florida; Kings Bay, Georgia; and Groton, Connecticut to continue aligning Information Warfare community training.

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