Commander of UAB’s Special Tactics medical team wins prestigious award

UAB's Air Force Special Operations Surgical Team was honored following a recent overseas deployment when the team commander received a prestigious award.

mitchell heroes 1Lt. Col. Mitchell and his team deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.Lt. Col. Benjamin Mitchell, M.D., the commander of an Air Force Special Operations Surgical Team operating out of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, has been awarded the 2017 Heroes of Military Medicine Award by the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine, Inc.

Special Operations Surgical Teams, or SOSTs, are mobile surgical specialists with advanced medical and tactics training who can deploy to austere or hostile areas to provide surgical support. A six-member SOST is composed of an emergency physician, general surgeon, nurse anesthetist, critical care nurse, surgical technician and respiratory therapist.

UAB first became home to a SOST in 2010, allowing the team to work in the hospital’s Level 1 trauma center when not deployed overseas, which helps members hone their skills and build team cohesion.

mitchell heroes 2Team member Capt. Cade Reedy donated blood for one of his patients.Mitchell received the 2017 Heroes of Military Medicine award May 4. The award is given to active-duty military medical professionals, with one recipient each year from the Army, Navy and Air Force. The award honors outstanding contributions by individuals who have distinguished themselves through excellence and selfless dedication to advancing military medicine and enhancing the lives and health of our nation’s wounded, ill and injured service members, veterans and civilians.

Mitchell was cited for leadership when the team was posted to an austere location in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, treating multiple patients at a field casualty collection point while undergoing a mortar attack within 250 meters.

“In a SOST, you get to work with some of the best medical care providers in the military,” Mitchell said. “We operate at a high level of readiness and focus, and my team reflects the highest professionalism under extreme conditions.”

Operating out of a small concrete house with equipment from their rucksacks, the team was the first to employ a resuscitative procedure called REBOA, a technique used in cases of major bleeding from chest, abdomen or pelvis injuries. REBOA involves stopping all blood flow temporarily while treating the most traumatic injuries.

mitchell heroes 3This small house served as the field medical facility for the UAB SOST.The team employed REBOA on four patients, all of whom survived. This was the first time the technique was employed by Defense Department personnel outside of a hospital setting.

“We are honored to have Lt. Col. Mitchell and the SOST team members at UAB,” said Jeff Kerby, M.D., Ph.D., director of the UAB Division of Acute Care Surgery in the Department of Surgery in the School of Medicine.

“This collaboration between military and civilian medicine provides mutual benefit, as they gain invaluable experience in a busy trauma center such as UAB, and we learn from the advances that so often come from battlefield medicine.”

The team members serving with Mitchell in Operation Inherent Resolve were Lt. Col. Matt Uber, Maj. Justin Manley, Maj. Nelson Pacheco, Capt. Cade Reedy and Technical Sergeant Richard Holguin. UAB hosts personnel from three SOSTs, whose members rotate between active military deployments and regular shifts at UAB Hospital.