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Order of Military Medical Merit presented to USU medical student

Military personnel receiving the Order of Military Merit Dr. Althea Green-Dixon, director of USU’s Enlisted to Medical Degree Preparatory Program and director of Recruitment for USU’s School of Medicine bestows the Order of Military Merit on Army 2nd Lt. Alex Villahermosa for his accomplishments while serving as a senior non-commissioned officer and medical sergeant (Photo by: Tom Balfour, USU).

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Army 2nd Lt. Alex Villahermosa recently became the first Uniformed Services University medical student to ever receive the Order of the Military Medical Merit, or O2M3, presented by the Army Medical Department (AMEDD) for significant contributions to the regiment. A surprised and humbled Villahermosa was recognized for his achievements during a small ceremony at USU on Feb. 11.  

“I didn’t tell him that we were doing this today. I have been stringing him along for the last year and he had no idea that this was going to happen,” said Dr. Althea Green-Dixon, director of USU’s Enlisted to Medical Degree Preparatory Program (EMDP2) and director of Recruitment for USU’s School of Medicine.  

The O2M3 was founded in 1982 by the Commanding General of the U.S. Army Health Services Command to recognize excellence and promote esprit de corps among AMEDD personnel. Prior to coming to USU for medical school through the Enlisted to Medical Degree Preparatory Program, Villahermosa served for several years on active duty as an Army medic, demonstrating distinguished service and leadership in medical education in a variety of roles.  

Villahermosa was recognized for his contributions as a senior non-commissioned officer and medical sergeant. While serving with a medical operations unit, Villahermosa developed 21 advanced medical courses. He also wrote the U.S. Special Operations Command’s Advanced Tactical Paramedic exam, as well as Tactical Medicine Emergency Protocols. These training programs supported AMEDD missions worldwide, and have enhanced proficiency, trauma protocols, and technical rescue skills of medical personnel.  

Villahermosa also designed and served as the primary instructor for a unit-level medical indoctrination course and developed a Modular Articulating Splint, patented in 2014. The device has been used to immobilize limbs at other-than-straight configurations, such as the elbow and knee.

As a sergeant first class at the Joint Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Accounting Command, in Joint Pacific Command, Hawaii, Villahermosa deployed to Vietnam, Laos, Korea, Papua New Guinea, and Cambodia to uncover the remains of missing service members. He served as sole provider for more than 65 team members, and as the team’s senior medical representative, he also provided medical guidance to 43 team augmentees. While deployed to Papua New Guinea, he treated more than 200 pediatric patients suffering from Kwashiorkor Syndrome, a severe form of malnutrition. In doing so, he not only improved their quality of life, but also gained the trust of the locals. 

Military personnel wearing mask posing for a photo during an award ceremony
Army 2nd Lt. Alex Villahermosa, (center) recently became the first USU medical student to receive the Order of the Military Medical Merit presented by the Army Medical Department (AMEDD) for significant contributions to the Regiment. He was recognized for this achievement during a small ceremony at USU on Feb. 11 (Photo by: Tom Balfour, USU)

Villahermosa was also lauded for his work as a Senior Medical Sergeant in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, where he helped plan and execute more than 150 combat operations, including direct action missions with partner Iraqi forces. He was also pivotal during Foreign Internal Defense training, which increased the Iraqi counterpart’s ability to conduct unilateral operations. He developed, coordinated, and taught a comprehensive course of instruction to develop Iraqi Police Special Weapons and Tactics medics in their combat medical capabilities and trauma response.

Green-Dixon presented the medal to Villahermosa, surrounded virtually and in person by a number of past O2M3 recipients, including retired Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Eric Schoomaker and USU President Emeritus Dr. Charles Rice.  

“Second lieutenant Villahermosa’s dedication to excellence has enabled world-class medical support to joint training and deployed operations,” said Green-Dixon, who nominated Villahermosa for “his dynamic leadership and medical acumen” that “contributed to increased mission readiness, as well as to the medical enterprise.” 

“Normally we would all be clustered behind you, file by and shake your hand.  We would all have a word of advice as we went by,” said Schoomaker, who joined virtually.  “I’m trying to think of the dozens, if not hundreds of O2M3s that I’ve been privileged to present this to award to, but I can’t think of another time that we’ve given this to a lieutenant or to an NCO below the rank of E-8 or possibly E-7, and that’s because it takes such a long time to make a substantial contribution to the AMEDD regiment and to the military family. In those occasions that you have this medallion on, I think people who are informed will see that you are a very special person, especially given your relative position within the hierarchy. You now have the opportunity throughout the remainder of your career to identify people and inspire them to make the contributions that you have, and to keep your eyes out for those people that you think are bound for the same honor someday. Be very aggressive about encouraging those people.”

“You are exactly the kind of officer that we had in mind when we launched the EMDP2 program,” said Rice. “You are a great example to others.  We are very, very proud of you and this is an honor that you richly deserve.”

“I had no idea that this was going to happen.  I’m kind of at a loss for words.  I’ve loved serving in the military and being in military medicine as an NCO and as a medical student about to graduate,” Villahermosa said.  “I’m really grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given and that’s something I hope to pay forward for the rest of my career and maybe even after. Thank you.”

 

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