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Bronze Stars for Special Ops Surgical Team Fighting ISIS

The Special Operations Surgical Team during a reenlistment. Standing at back, left to right, emergency medicine physician Lt. Col. Ben Mitchell, emergency room nurse Capt. Cade Reedy, emergency room nurse Maj. Nelson Pacheco, nurse anesthetist Lt. Col. Matthew Uber. Kneeling, surgeon Maj. Justin Manley, left, and respiratory therapist Tech. Sgt. Richard Holguin, right. (Photo: Air Force)
The Special Operations Surgical Team during a reenlistment. Standing at back, left to right, emergency medicine physician Lt.-Col. Ben Mitchell, emergency room nurse Capt. Cade Reedy, emergency room nurse Maj. Nelson Pacheco, nurse anesthetist Lt.-Col. Matthew Uber. Kneeling, surgeon Maj. Justin Manley, left, and respiratory therapist Tech.-Sgt. Richard Holguin, right. (Photo: Air Force)

Members of an Air Force Special Operations Surgical Team (SOST) who operated in a dangerous location near the front lines fighting ISIS received Bronze Star medals for their bravery and work.

The awards are the military’s fourth-highest combat medal for heroism.

The team, who worked at an undisclosed location in the Middle East in 2016, received the medals at the University of Alabama Birmingham Hospital, one of the first civilian hospitals to host a SOST.

The team included emergency medicine physician Lt.-Col. Ben Mitchell, nurse anesthetist Lt.-Col. Matthew Uber, surgeon Maj. Justin Manley, emergency room nurse Capt. Cade Reedy of the 720th Operations Support Squadron, emergency room nurse Maj. Nelson Pacheco and respiratory therapist Technical-Sgt. Richard Holguin.

Along with other members of the SOST, they treated 750 patients, responded to 19 mass-casualty events, conducted 16 life-saving surgeries and treated victims of a chemical weapon attack.

When they are not on deployment, the team works in the emergency room and performs surgeries at UAB to keep their skills honed, since most military hospitals do not have many trauma patients. UAB is the only Level 1 Trauma Center within a 150-mile radius. It hosts three, six-person SOST teams, who rotate on deployments lasting about four months followed by 11-12 months at the medical facility.

SOST teams also bring their expertise and experience in the field to the hospital, instructing residents and medical students in lessons learned from battlefield medicine.

“The tourniquet is a great example of how military medicine can change civilian practice,” said Dr. Jeffrey Kerby, director of the Division of Acute Care Surgery at UAB. “Tourniquets had fallen out of favor until recent battlefield experiences re-affirmed 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.”

 

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