Army 2nd Lt. Alex Villahermosa recently became the first-ever Uniformed Services University (USU) medical student to receive the Order of the Military Medical Merit or O2M3. The award was presented by the Army Medical Department (AMEDD) for his significant contributions to the Regiment.
On February 11th, 2021 Villahermosa was recognized for his achievements during a small ceremony at USU. “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. Green-Dixon is director of recruitment of the Enlisted to Medical Degree Preparatory Program, a partnership between the USU and the military services that provide enlisted servicemembers the opportunity to meet the requirements to be accepted to medical school.
The Order of Military Medical Merit is a unique, private organization founded by the Commanding General of U.S. Army Health Services Command in April 1982 to recognize excellence and promote fellowship and esprit de corps among Army Medical Department (AMEDD) personnel. Membership in the Order denotes distinguished service which is recognized by the senior leadership of the AMEDD. Members are given a certificate and a handsome medallion that signifies to all they meet that they are members of the Order.
Before coming to USU for medical school through the Enlisted to Medical Degree Preparatory Program (EMDP2), 2nd Lt. Villahermosa had served for several years on active duty as an Army Special Forces “Green Beret” medic, demonstrating service and leadership in a variety of medical and educational roles.
Villahermosa was recognized for his contributions as a senior non-commissioned officer (NCO) and as a Special Forces medical sergeant.
While serving within Special Forces, then-SFC Villahermosa developed advanced medical courses. He also wrote the U.S. Special Operations Command’s Advanced Tactical Paramedic exam and Tactical Medicine Emergency Protocols. These training programs supported AMEDD missions worldwide and have enhanced proficiency, trauma protocols, and medical personnel’s technical rescue skills.
Villahermosa also designed and served as the primary instructor for a unit-level medical indoctrination course and developed a Modular Articulating Splint that was 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 (JPAC), in Hawaii, he deployed to Vietnam, Laos, Korea, Papua New Guinea, and Cambodia to uncover the remains of missing servicemembers.
While at the JPAC, he served as the 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.
Villahermosa was also praised for his work as a Special Forces Senior Medical Sergeant in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He executed more than 150 combat operations, including Direct Action missions with partner Iraqi forces. He was a lead instructor during Foreign Internal Defense training, which increased the Iraqis’ ability to conduct unilateral operations.
Villahermosa developed, coordinated, and taught a comprehensive instruction course to train Iraqi Police Special Weapons and Tactics medics in their combat medical capabilities and trauma response.
Dr. Green-Dixon presented the medallion to Villahermosa, surrounded virtually and in-person by many past O2M3 recipients, including former Army Surgeon General ret. 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.”
Schoomaker said the following during the ceremony:
“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. I’m trying to think of the dozens, if not hundreds of O2M3s that I’ve been privileged to present this to award to, I can’t think of another time that we’ve given this to a lieutenant or 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 the military family. [On] 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.”