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NEWS | Sept. 16, 2011

Air Force medic earns Bronze Star medal

By Staff Sgt. Robert Barnett 59th Medical Wing Public Affairs

Chief Master Sgt. John Balmer, 359th Medical Group superintendent, was awarded the Bronze Star medal Sept. 1. Col. Althea Miller, 359th MDG commander, presented the award to Balmer for his service at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Deployed from Nov. 26, 2009, to Nov. 25, 2010, Balmer performed exceptionally meritorious service while engaged in ground combat operations against the enemy as the senior enlisted leader for Task Force Medical East and as the 455th Expeditionary Medical Group superintendent.

His leadership role gave him responsibility over more than 1,200 enlisted soldiers, airmen and sailors, Jordanians, Egyptians, Koreans and other coalition partners operating at more than 70 locations supporting a population at risk of more than 70,000 personnel in regional commands East, North, South and Capitol. His work was paramount in maintaining the highest standards of care for a 140 percent increase in trauma cases and a 262 percent increase in patient movement through the Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility.

During Balmer's deployment, Task Force Medical East treated more than 3,350 admitted patients, an increase of 240 percent; more than 2,000 surgeries for an increase of 175 percent; and more than 5,600 surgical hours performed, adding an additional increase of 166 percent from 2009. Despite increasing threats and significant personal risk, Balmer insisted on regular battlefield circulation, examining key operation issues and affecting positive change.

He also led the creation of a robust pool of trauma-trained medics while bringing ambulance response to a level never seen in a wartime area of responsibility.
He oversaw the integration of emergency room and evacuation personnel, producing a cohesive team while increasing the number of fully trained emergency room trauma medics by 250 percent from 12 to 30.

He was hand-selected by the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing commander to perform duties as the 455th command chief, the Army equivalent of a brigade-level command sergeant major, for three weeks.

"I was truly honored to present Chief Balmer with his Bronze Star medal," Miller said. "His commitment to the Air Force mission and our people is exemplary. He is an incredible role model and mentor for our entire staff, so I was doubly pleased to have them witness the presentation."