HomeNewsArticle Display

SOST members earn Bronze Star Medals

SOST members earn Bronze Star Medals

Members of a Special Operations Surgical Team were presented five Bronze Star Medals and a Meritorious Service Medal during a ceremony at The University of Alabama at Birmingham, Feb. 13, 2018. The team was recognized for their actions while deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. SOSTs are surgical teams highly trained in providing life-saving care any time, any place. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Victor J. Caputo)

SOST members earn Bronze Star Medals

Lt. Col. Ben Mitchell, 720th Operations Support Squadron emergency room doctor and Special Operations Surgical Team leader, salutes Lt. Col. Eli Mitchell, 720th OSS commander, during a ceremony at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Feb. 13, 2018. Five members of a SOST were awarded the Bronze Star Medal for their actions while deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. SOSTs are highly-mobile, tailorable teams of surgical and emergency specialists trained to provide life-saving surgical care and trauma resuscitation on or near the battlefield. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Victor J. Caputo)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AFNS) -- The brightly lit, inviting atrium of the University of Alabama Hospital is a far cry from the two room, concrete-walled farmhouse in the Middle East where the U.S. Air Force Special Operations Surgical Team, based out of the UAB, deployed in 2016. During their four-month tour at that casualty collection point, the team performed the deeds that brought their families, scores of UAB well-wishers, and senior officers from the Air Force Special Operations Command, to the atrium for a medal ceremony on Feb. 13, 2018.

The five members of the SOST Gold Team were awarded Bronze Star Medals by the Air Force for their actions during that deployment.

A SOST is a team of active-duty Air Force medical professionals, including a trauma surgeon, emergency physician, nurse anesthetist, surgical scrub tech, critical-care nurse and a respiratory tech, who are charged with providing far-forward medical care during combat operations wherever the U.S. military is engaged.

“A SOST is a mobile surgical team with advanced medical and tactics training which can deploy to austere or hostile areas to provide surgical support,” said Lt. Col. Ben Mitchell, SOST leader and emergency room medical doctor with the 720th Operations Support Squadron. “Our mission is to provide early, potentially life-saving surgery to wounded American military personnel or to the local population.”

In 2010, UAB became one of the first two civilian hospitals in the nation to host a SOST. The Air Force determined that, when not on deployment abroad, the teams needed to be stationed at a facility where they could best develop their medical and teamwork skills.

“Military hospitals in the states typically don’t see a lot of trauma,” said Dr. Jeffrey Kerby, director of the Division of Acute Care Surgery at UAB. “For a medical team to keep their skills sharp, they need a more challenging environment.”

Kerby, who was an Air Force surgeon before joining UAB, is the conduit between AFSOC and the hospital.

“UAB is a good training ground,” Kerby said. “We are the only adult Level 1 Trauma Center within a 150-mile radius. We see a great many penetrating trauma cases here from gunshot wounds, stabbings or car crashes. Unfortunately, we are a good place to hone trauma skills.”

The team members are fully accredited staff at UAB, treating patients in the emergency department, performing surgery and caring for those in intensive care units.

In 2016, the UAB Gold Team deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, setting up at an austere, forward location that served as a collection point for injured local fighters.

“When we arrived on location, we basically were jumping into a fast-moving river of trauma,” said Lt. Col. Matt Uber, Gold team’s nurse-anesthetist.

There were some local medical personnel at the farmhouse, and some U.S .military medics, but no surgical capacity. As word spread of their arrival, the river of trauma began to flow.

“We had patients on site within two hours of arrival at our location,” Mitchell said. “We treated more than 750 patients during our deployment, working 24/7.”

Mitchell, Uber and the rest of the six-man team experienced 19 mass casualty events — when the river of patients would have overwhelmed even a good-sized emergency department in the states. They performed 16 lifesaving surgeries, sometimes while mortar rounds whistled overhead. Supplies were limited. Capt. Cade Reedy donated his own blood for one wounded fighter, while Maj. Nelson Pacheco organized other locals to donate multiple units.

At times, the patients dramatically outnumbered the providers. Tech. Sgt. Richard Holguin, the team’s respiratory therapist, established an airway on one casualty while single-handedly managing another patient’s chest injury.

For the first time ever in a forward wartime environment, Maj. Justin Manley, Gold team’s surgeon, performed a Resuscitative Endovascular Balloon Occlusion of the Aorta procedure, in which a balloon catheter is placed into a patient’s femoral artery. The balloon is inflated to stop severe bleeding. It is a difficult, even risky procedure, but it allowed the patient to survive until arrival at an operating room. The team used the same procedure three more times during the deployment, saving four patients who otherwise would not have survived.

Team members say the time spent at UAB when not overseas is important. Training and working together brings the team closer.

“It helps to really know and understand each member of the team — to know what they will do and how they will react to situations that arise,” Mitchell said. “We had some rough days during deployment, and you have to know that you can count on each other in those times.”

UAB hosts three, six-man SOST teams, who rotate on deployments that usually last about four months, followed by 11-12 months at the host medical facility.

“We are adjuncts to the UAB staff, not replacements,” Mitchell said. “We train with our SOST teammates, but also work alongside the incredible medical professionals at UAB as much as possible.”

“It is gratifying to know that we can play a role in helping the team reach and maintain peak proficiency in their medical skills prior to a deployment where those skills might be needed to save lives on a battlefield,” said Reid Jones, Chief Operating Officer of UAB Medicine.

The team shares their experiences with their UAB counterparts in an exchange of learning that flows both ways.

“Most of the major, significant contributions in trauma surgery have been made during times of military conflict,” Kerby said. “This affiliation with the Air Force, tapping into their experience and their expertise, certainly has a positive impact on what we are trying to do at UAB as a trauma center. At the same time, their opportunity to work as a team, in a busy, high-volume trauma center, has a positive impact on what they are trying to accomplish.”

SOST members are involved in teaching residents and medical students at UAB through presentations and side-by-side training. The team has worked with over 200 first responders on proper techniques for using tourniquets to stop bleeding after trauma.

“The tourniquet is a great example of how military medicine can change civilian practice,” Kerby said. “Tourniquets had fallen out of favor until recent battlefield experiences reaffirmed their utility in stopping major bleeds following severe trauma. SOST is now helping us re-introduce this lifesaving technique through our Stop the Bleed campaign.”

Kerby said the whole approach to resuscitation has been amended by military experiences. UAB is looking at adding REBOA to its array of available medical procedures, and the SOST’s use of whole blood transfusion might also have applications in civilian medicine.

“This is a win/win situation,” he said. “We help prepare them for their mission, and they come back with new ideas and new thinking that just might save lives in Birmingham, in Alabama and across the nation.”

Engage

Twitter
Roam Robotics developed a lightweight & inexpensive knee exoskeleton for applications in the health, military & rec… https://t.co/7klpyEaYG1
Twitter
RT @USAFCENT: |RESOLUTE PARTNERSHIPS| On Aug. 6, 2020, U.S. Air Forces Central Command and @AirMobilityCmd units were called to action to p…
Twitter
A C-17 Globemaster III from Joint Base Lewis-McChord flies over the Seattle skyline after completing a training exe… https://t.co/4IodNs1bId
Twitter
#DYK The T-33A Shooting Star at Moody AFB's air park was developed from the single-seat F-80 fighter by lengthening… https://t.co/XXY3pAHDzu
Twitter
A C-17 Globemaster III returns to @TeamCharleston after evacuating to Ellsworth AFB. Ellsworth has a support agree… https://t.co/vtHhp1ETVC
Twitter
RT @DeptofDefense: #OTD in 1949, the DOD was formed, unifying the military under the secretary of defense. Our thanks to everyone who serve…
Twitter
Starting off the week with some air power! . An F-22 Raptor assigned to the 3rd Wing takes off from Joint Base Elme… https://t.co/cjvCe6fSOk
Twitter
RT @HQ_AFMC: “We need out-of-the-box thinkers to succeed in our mission of developing the base of the future,” said Brig. Gen. Patrice Mel…
Twitter
“With accelerating disruptive technologies...rewriting Air Power for all nations, not just the U.S., continuing our… https://t.co/WDD6LsQGkr
Twitter
#Resilience: The story of the Peck family’s and their battle with breast cancer. #TotalForce @ScottAFB https://t.co/PYGgSOQwcu
Twitter
Twitter
RT @USAFReserve: Maintaining resiliency in paradise - https://t.co/IXktGzGgWc (Story by the @624RSG) #ReserveResilient https://t.co/ta8mMTP…
Twitter
RT @hack_a_sat: Tune in at 11 AM PDT to watch the LIVE closing ceremony with Dr. Will Roper and @bjgol. 🚀It's all happening at https://t.c…
Twitter
Difficult, but not impossible. @GenCQBrownJr addresses the challenges the Air Force faces going forward. https://t.co/kF4FdxN5S6
Twitter
“I want to show people the power of having faith & sticking to what you say you’re going to do.” - Staff Sgt. Gerem… https://t.co/524l6BUsyI
Twitter
What operates 24/7 ensuring the safety of aircraft & aircrews, AND provides prompt service to whoever is flying?… https://t.co/JMaYsTV5XH
Twitter
.@GenCQBrownJr explains what the Air Force can expect from his leadership: https://t.co/bxeqgZ1NSi
Twitter
RT @AirmanMagazine: Your daily @usairforce news! ✅ @Team_Tinker Airmen are using 3D printing to manufacture metal components successfully…
Twitter
5-year-old Wilder Umbarger, who suffers from X-Linked Adrenoleukodystrophy, wished he could see a real plane and me… https://t.co/nUtEk9e0u4
Facebook
The newest Air Force Podcast recently dropped. Listen to a small snippet of CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright talk with Staff Sgt. New about resiliency. Listen to the entire podcast on Youtube: https://go.usa.gov/xpnAD or Subscribe to The Air Force Podcast on iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/podcast/the-air-force-podcast/id1264107694?mt=2
Facebook
Our mantra, "Always ready!" It's the spirit we fly by! #B2Tuesday
Facebook
Need some motivation to get your week started off right? Listen as CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright weighs in...
Facebook
The U.S. Air Force Academy gives its cadets some unique opportunities. Ride along one of this opportunities.
Facebook
A United States Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker refuels an F-22 Raptor over northern Iraq, Nov. 6, 2019. U.S. Central Command operations deter adversaries and demonstrate support for allies and partners in the region. (Video by Staff Sgt. Daniel Snider)
Facebook
Although the Silver Star is the third-highest military medal, it's not given often. Today, TSgt Cody Smith was the 49th Special Tactics Airman to receive this medal since Sept. 11th, 2001. Read more of TSgt Smith's amazing story: https://www.airforcespecialtactics.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2024815/special-tactics-airman-battled-through-injuries-awarded-silver-star/fbclid/IwAR2LZWwx1VHdTnQe39rIEBOuJS_0JvMQBBGt7I-E6zsxxn-Lx9387yu43Bc/ Cannon Air Force Base Air Force Special Operations Command United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)
Facebook
Tune in as our Air Force musicians along with other military musicians are awarded the National Medal of Arts.
Facebook
Like Us
Twitter
1,265,301
Follow Us