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News | Aug. 29, 2022

Surgeon General Deputy earns NDIA Patriot Award

By Angelique McDonald U.S. Space Command

PETERSON SPACE FORCE BASE, Colo. -- One of U.S. Space Command’s very own was recognized by the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the National Defense Industrial Association during its 39th Rocky Mountain Ball, Aug. 19, 2022.
U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Melissa Runge, USSPACECOM Surgeon General deputy, was presented the NDIA Patriot Award, which honors service members who have demonstrated “a profound and abiding love of country and whose inspirational leadership, actions, and selfless dedication symbolize our nation’s ideals, values, and founding principles,” according to their website.
“The nomination for this award is an honor, but to win is amazing,” said Runge, an Air Force brat who claims Texas as her home state.
Runge served as the Department of Defense Surgeon for the SpaceX Crew-3 Dragon launch in November 2021. As the medical coordinator in the Special Operations Center at Patrick Space Force Base, Florida, she communicated with rescue and recovery forces to coordinate contingency operations. Her actions were essential in ensuring the safety of four astronauts, while enriching capabilities with our commercial and interagency partners in support of our nation’s defense, according to her award submission package.
“I imagine the anticipation and excitement of the [SpaceX] mission to how the Apollo mission crew must have felt in the early days of space flight,” said Runge. As a former missileer, Runge says she’s always been fascinated with space. “The current momentum of [the medical field supporting human space flight] is incredible and I’m happy to be a part of it,” she explained.
Runge also planned and executed the USSPACECOM Inaugural Space Medicine Forum, a two-day event attended by 30 service component surgeons, service aerospace medicine school houses, NASA and civilian academia leaders. Leading up to the event, she wrote a joint survey that was widely distributed across the DoD Command Surgeon community, which yielded 77 responses and identified a critical training gap. This crucial forum advanced Human Space Flight Support operations and DOD space medicine training standardization.
As a credentialed physician, Runge maintains clinical currency at the Peterson Medical Treatment Facility, where she treats patients on a regular basis. “Working at the clinic allows me to personally engage and take care of USSPACECOM and base service members,” she said.
Her clinical skills and critical thinking came to great use during a motorcycle accident on a Colorado Springs roadway recently. Runge administered lifesaving care to a victim who was hit by another motor vehicle and sustained multiple life threatening injuries. Runge stabilized the patient while awaiting on-scene for the ambulance to arrive.
“[Runge] possesses an exceptional work ethic, coupled with amazing interpersonal skills. I couldn't ask for a better deputy command surgeon to work alongside me as we work to advance Human Space Flight Support operations,” U.S. Air Force Col. Ingrid Ford, USSPACECOM Surgeon General said.