KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
Four Airmen were awarded bronze stars during a commander’s call March 5 at the Bay Breeze Event Center on Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi.
Capt. Edwin Pratt, 81st Training Wing executive officer, Maj. Ramon Riojas, 81st Surgical Operations Squadron general surgeon, Lt. Col. Jack Vilardi, 81st Medical Support Squadron TRICARE Operations and Patient Administration flight commander, and Lt. Col. Scott Eisenhuth, 81st MSGS orthopedic surgeon, were the bronze star recipients.
Riojas, Vilardi and Eisenhuth were part of a 10-person mobile field surgical team designed to do damage control surgery and trauma care in deployed locations. They saved over 60 trauma patients, revised medical procedures on base and designed training programs while deployed.
“When we arrived they basically said we were in charge of the medical command for the entire base and surrounding area,” said Riojas. “We tried to make sure we provided good health care for not just the people who were injured but preventing any sickness, illnesses and injuries for the entire base.”
During their deployment they saved 63 trauma patients, 249 life and limb saving surgical procedures and delivery of 211 blood transfusions.
Their main mission was to support the Marines and any combat casualties that arrived but they also came up with ways to bring the Keesler training mission to Al Asad Air Base to make sure the mission never stopped.
“If they would’ve just waited for their patients to show up they still would’ve had a successful deployment,” said Vilardi. “They did so much more than that and designed training programs not just for us but for the entire base.”
The team recognized the importance of giving base-wide education on self-aid and buddy care and tourniquet use to make sure everybody knew how to save lives when in dangerous conditions.
“We put a lot of emphasis on our non-medics to make sure they were well trained,” said Riojas. “We know one of the most preventative causes of death in combat is hemorrhagic and shock. We know that after a couple months they forget their training so we hammered that through. We just wanted to make sure not only us but everybody else knew how to react in certain situations.”
Despite the damaged walls that were pockmarked by previous artillery hits, limited resources and a somewhat intact roof, they were able to accomplish the mission and were rewarded for their hard work while downrange.
“It’s a reflection of both our personal efforts but also what we were able to accomplish as a team,” said Eisenhuth. “As a highly capable, highly functional team with minimal resources I think we were able to accomplish an amazing amount of things and I think the award is reflective of the efforts put forward by our team.”