Team charged with identifying, assisting at-risk service members helps Airman who suffered training injury

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Greydon Furstenau
  • Air University Public Affairs

In a prompt response during a routine training session, the Operational Support Team at Maxwell Air Force Base skillfully managed a medical emergency involving an Airman.

Capt. Ben Schmitt, a Physical Therapist with the 42nd Air Base Wing's Operational Support Team, was embedded with the 42nd Security Forces Squadron when an Airman suffered a shoulder dislocation during training on his first day in July. Schmitt promptly addressed the injury, averting additional joint damage. His quick response allowed the Airman to continue with their planned permanent change of station two days later without complications.

The OST initiative extends throughout the Air Force, with the goal of bolstering the physical and mental fortitude of units. These specialized teams undertake 3–6-month assignments using data-driven strategies to identify and assist at-risk service members, thereby improving overall mission capability.

“This scenario provides one example of OST having a meaningful impact on a unit’s readiness; however, much of what OST seeks to accomplish within formations has to do with preventing injury or adverse outcomes,” stated Lt. Col David Lutz, 42nd Military Treatment Facility deputy director. “As OST members build relationships with personnel in units, the unit personnel will become more comfortable bringing physical and mental concerns to this team. These relationships within OST lower the bar for members to seek mental and physical care, and OST members’ familiarity with the medical system will help direct unit members to the right place of care when they need a higher level of care.”

Recent OST efforts have notably aided members struggling with fitness assessments, enabling them to achieve better, healthier results. Additionally, targeted interventions have successfully reduced the length of medical profiles, thus enhancing unit readiness.

The team’s scope of care also includes mental health: by building rapport with Airmen, the OST can impart crucial resilience-building and preventive skills to avert issues that could impact unit readiness and welfare.

The 42nd Air Base Wing is in the final stages of staffing for the OST and is concurrently establishing a centralized resiliency center. This center will extend comprehensive health and wellness support to its units.

While the OST is slated for full operational status in 2024, the preliminary embedding of team members has already produced promising outcomes, demonstrating the effectiveness of their presence within the units at Maxwell AFB.

“It is important to prepare our Total Force for readiness because we all contribute to the lethality of the greatest Air Force the world has ever seen,” said Lutz “The incredible complexity of our military’s mission set means there is a huge diversity of medical needs, and the OST helps medics learn those missions so they can optimize medical care to our forces.”