The Air Force’s 2022 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year will be formally recognized at the AFA’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference Sept. 19-21 in National Harbor, Maryland. Air Force Magazine highlights one each weekday from now until the start of the conference. Today we honor Master Sgt. Brandon S. Blake, a detachment superintendent for the 720th Operations Support Squadron in Birmingham, Ala.
Blake, a respiratory therapist, was the team sergeant of a six-member Special Operations Surgical Team (SOST) that also included a surgeon, anesthesiologist, surgical technician, critical care nurse and physician. The six Airmen have worked together before, so when they were tasked on short notice from the University of Alabama at Birmingham to deploy on Operation Allies Refuge, the team didn’t take long. to get together.
“We were out within days,” Blake said. “The great thing about our team and our team structure is that everything we do, we do together, so we already knew what we wanted to pack and take with us.
The team spent the next two weeks supporting 5,100 U.S. personnel, treating 71 casualties and providing seven surgeries during the Air Force’s largest event in 10 years and largest evacuation. of United States history.
“We never ‘want’ to do our job,” Blake said. “We are like 9-11 for 9-11. When something bad happens, [and you need] a special ops surgical team, this is probably the absolute worst day on a mission of anyone’s life. So we’ve already kind of prepared for that. We trained for this.
After establishing casualty collection points (CCPs) and conducting reconnaissance during security blackouts on the final day of the operation, Blake’s team was one of the last three medical teams on the final flight from Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport.
The commander of the 82nd Airborne Division and the commander of the Marine Corps praised his performance in Afghanistan, but Blake said his SOST’s “unparalleled flexibility” and their kinetic relationship is what made their response so exceptional.
“When it’s time to go, you don’t need to talk,” he said. “Nobody needs to say anything. You know exactly where you need to be and who needs what. That dynamic with that particular team was perfect. I mean, I couldn’t have left with a best team.
This responsiveness comes into play on American soil and out of uniform as well. While off duty in Birmingham, Blake witnessed a car accident in which a civilian’s vehicle, a few cars in front of his, overturned as he was traveling at approximately 70 miles per hour. Blake pulled over and assessed the driver’s trauma while ordering another “good Samaritan” to alert 9-11. He kept the patient stabilized until emergency responders arrived.
Asked about the source of his calm leadership and habitual preparation, Blake attributed it to his father, who retired as chief master sergeant after 30 years in the Air Force. He also credited Lt. Col. Mark Northern, his former detachment commander whose “humble leadership” continues to inspire Blake’s leadership roles today. He said these people “highlight how I want to be and where I want to…grow. I’ve had great role models and mentors throughout my life.
As he prepares to fly to National Harbor for his recognition as Outstanding Airman of the Year at the AFA’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference, Blake emphasized that the honor n was not his.
“It took a team, you know,” he said. “It’s not a win for me. It’s a team victory. I’m just proud to represent the Respiratory Therapy and SOST community.
Meet the other Outstanding Airmen of the Year in 2022 below: