FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. – A Blanchfield Army Community Hospital physician received top honors from the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine during an award ceremony in Washington D.C., May 5.
Retired Col. (Dr.) Michael A. Helwig, medical director of Soldier Health Services at BACH, was named Civilian Hero of Military Medicine, joining three active duty doctors from the Army, Navy and Air Force, who were named Hero of Military Medicine for their respective service. Helwig’s selection marks the first time ever a civilian Hero has been named in the annual award program.
"Our first Civilian Hero of Military Medicine is a great example of the type of public servants we find in our unique system,” said Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Ronald Place, director of the Defense Health Agency, who joined Helwig and the other awardees at the ceremony. "Overall, we have about 150,000 personnel working in military health, and about 60,000 of those individuals are civilians, nearly 40 percent of our team!"
The award recognizes Helwig’s contributions to the field of medicine and enhancing patients’ lives.
Helwig spearheaded Fort Campbell’s COVID-19 response. He led this endeavor by creating multiple testing and clinical evaluation sites. As the head technical advisor, he enabled Soldier readiness by pioneering protocols for pre- and post-deployment testing to limit spread, evaluation criteria for hospital admission, and home monitoring. Because of his multiple combat deployments during his 24 years in the Army, he was used to operating under stressful conditions.
“He was formerly an active duty service member on Fort Campbell and also served as the deputy commander for clinical services at BACH before retiring from active duty, which is demonstrated in his ability to easily liaise and make lasting connections with entities on and off of the installation,” said Col. Vincent B. Myers, Blanchfield Army Community Hospital commander.
Decades before COVID-19 appeared, Helwig supported the negotiations ending the Liberian Civil War in 1998. He also established medical infrastructure in Afghanistan in 2001, Iraq in 2004, and Syria in 2015. When he arrived at Fort Campbell in 2015, he leveraged his large breadth of experience in order to improve simulation training for physicians providing care in support of combat deployments.
“After 24 years on active duty, Helwig continues to serve and give back to Military Medicine as a government civilian. His knowledge, drive, and dedication to excellence continue to benefit the service members he cares for and the military and civilian employees under his tutelage,” said Lt. Col. Domenick P. Nardi, Blanchfield's Chief of Primary Care, in his award nomination for Dr. Helwig.
In addition to his contributions to medicine, Helwig’s impeccable military record embodies the Army Values for his entire career. In 2002 when he was deployed to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, a young child wandered into a deserted Russian minefield while Helwig was off duty. Using a ladder, he removed the child from the minefield and transported him to the Combat Support Hospital where the child later survived his injuries. This is one of many events which show Helwig’s service beyond the call of duty.
This sentiment was echoed by Myers, who said, “In all of my years of service, I have yet to find another provider as knowledgeable, driven, and dedicated to excellence as Dr. Helwig. From my first encounter with him when I was a first lieutenant in Bagram, Afghanistan in 2002, it was absolutely clear he is truly a one-of-a-kind physician who goes above and beyond for every patient under his care.”