Colonel William E. Nelson, USAF, MC, CFS

2018 Air Force Hero of Military Medicine

Colonel Nelson is Chief, Integrated and International Operational Medicine, 711th Human Performance Wing. He integrates and executes strategy for the Air Force’s human-centric warfare wing that includes the USAF School of Aerospace Medicine, the Airman Systems Directorate, and the Human Systems Integration Directorate.

He is Board Certified in orthopedic surgery and a Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. He completed the USAF Residency and was Board Certified in Aerospace Medicine.

He served as Chief of Surgical Services at Osan Air Base, and Chief of Orthopedic Surgery at Malcolm Grow Medical Center. As a Flight Surgeon he provided SOCPAC forces deployed care in the Pacific.  As Special Operations Group Surgeon he led the SOF Medical Element that supported SOCEUR missions in Europe and Africa. As JSOTF Two Surgeon, he led ALLIED FORCE SOF and CSAR, JOINT GUARDIAN, and JOINT FORGE medical operations.  He deployed for SOUTHERN WATCH to Al Dhafra Air Base as medical clinic Officer in Charge, and deployed aboard the USS Mount Whitney as JTF LEBANON Deputy Surgeon.

He commanded the 39th Medical Operations Squadron at Incirlik Air Base, generated NORTHERN WATCH medical response, provided ENDURING FREEDOM combat casualty care, and directed emergency treatment and resupply for SOF. He led IRAQI FREEDOM medical planning, coordinated casualty flow/aerovac, and expanded trauma, ICU, and CASF capability. The squadron was recognized with 9 USAFE and 3 Air Force awards.

He commanded the 435th Aerospace Medicine Squadron at Ramstein Air Base, ensured aeromedical programs for 3 Wings, Air Mobility Command OIF/OEF crews, and 69 GSUs and remote sites. He executed EUCOM theater security medical support, and commanded CASF operations for more than 21,000 wounded or sick OIF, OEF, and EUCOM forces. The squadron was recognized with 21 USAFE and 2 Air Force awards; was USAFE Team Aerospace two years in a row; and was cited as a significant factor in Ramstein Air Base’s 2006 CINC Installation Excellence Award.  

As Chief of Air Force Special Operations Command’s Aerospace Medicine Division, and Air Force Special Operations Forces Surgeon, then 23rd Air Force Surgeon, he inspected SOF units worldwide with AFSOC/IG, engaged USSOCOM/TSOC/JSOACs to ensure global Nonstandard Aviation deployment, and developed AFSOC Personnel Recovery and Reintegration medical plans.

Prior to his current assignment, he served as Chief of Aerospace Medicine Policy and Operations Division, and senior aerospace medicine advisor to the USAF Surgeon General. He led Flight Medicine, Public Health, Bioenvironmental Engineering, and Aerospace and Operational Physiology policy development; managed the $173M and 5,600 personnel Aerospace Operations Panel portfolio; led AF/SG’s Personnel Reliability Program response for the nuclear mission; created a Flight Surgeon program to support Remotely Piloted Aircraft and CYBER Operations; and guided response to the H1N1 pandemic, and Operations TOMADACHI, ENDURING FREEDOM, IRAQI FREEDOM, and NEW DAWN.

Colonel Nelson is a Chief Flight Surgeon. He has over 1,100 flying hours, including 33 combat and 16 combat support sorties, in AC-130U, C-17, C-20, C-21, C-40, C-130E, C-130H, CV-22, HC-130P, KC-10,   KC-135, MC-130H, MC-130P, MH-53J, MH-53M, MI-17, T-6A, T-38C, U-28, UH-001N and UH-60L aircraft.