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:: Frank K. Butler, Jr., M.D. - Distinguished Service - 2010
   CAPT Medical Corps USN (RET)
   Chairman Committee on Tactical Combat Casualty Care
   Defense Health Board

Frank K. Butler   Dr. Frank Butler completed Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training in 1972 and spent 3 years as a platoon officer in the Navy SEALs. After medical school, Dr. Butler spent 5 years as a Diving Medical Research officer at the Navy Experimental Diving Unit in Panama City, where he helped to develop many of the diving techniques and procedures used by Navy SEALs today.

While at NEDU, Dr. Butler supervised the largest experimental oxygen dive series in U.S. history. This series of almost 900 dives allowed the Navy’s oxygen exposure limits to be completely redefined. Closed-circuit oxygen rebreather operating times at some depths were increased by over 200% and the ability to make a brief excursion to depths as deep as 50 feet was added to the Navy Diving Manual. Both of these advances have been invaluable to SEAL diving operations. Dr. Butler’s tables have been proven remarkably safe and are still in use 25 years later. Their excellent safety record is due in large part to the improved purging procedures for oxygen rebreathers devised by Dr. Butler.

Dr. Butler also developed the decompression procedures and medical emergency procedures for SEAL Dry Deck Shelter (DDS) and SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV) operations, thereby providing mission-critical support to the SEALs’ most important underwater mobility asset.

He treated hundreds of episodes of decompression sickness and oxygen toxicity while at NEDU. He also participated as a diver-subject in many of the experimental dive series there, suffering both decompression sickness and 3 episodes of central nervous system oxygen toxicity (including two convulsions).

After completing his ophthalmology residency, Dr. Butler served as the Chief of Ophthalmology at Naval Hospital Pensacola from 1990 to 1994. He was also the Director of Biomedical Research for the Naval Special Warfare Command from 1990 to 2004, where he continued to be involved in diving medical research. He spearheaded the successful development of the SEAL decompression computer, the Cochran Navy, personally selecting the VVAL-18 decompression algorithm that was used in the Cochran Navy. This computer has now been used by SEALs for over a decade and has become an essential part of SDV/DDS diving operations. The VVAL-18 decompression algorithm is now the basis for the revised Navy air decompression tables and has provided enhanced diving safety for all Navy divers.

Dr. Butler is a pioneer in the field of ophthalmology and diving. His landmark paper “Diving and Hyperbaric Ophthalmology” was the first comprehensive review of ocular disorders in diving and is now the standard on this topic. Dr. Butler has volunteered his time as an ophthalmology consultant to the Divers' Alert Network since 1995, providing expert advice to divers around the world about their diving-related eye problems.

Dr. Butler served for 3 years as a member of the Board of Directors for the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society. He is the Co-Chair of the UHMS Decompression Sickness and Arterial Gas Embolism Committee and is currently spearheading the Society’s effort to develop evidence-based Best Practice Guidelines to improve the treatment of these disorders.

Dr. Butler has authored over 30 articles, reports, and book chapters on diving and diving medicine. His contributions have greatly advanced the diving capabilities of Navy SEALs and made diving safer for everyone.

In 2003, Dr. Butler served as the Task Force Surgeon for a Joint Special Operations Counterterrorist Task Force in Afghanistan. He was later the first Navy medical officer selected to be the Command Surgeon at the United States Special Operations Command. Dr. Butler now serves as the Chairman of the Committee on Tactical Combat Casualty Care (CoTCCC), which is a component of the Defense Health Board, the senior external advisory group on medical issues to the Secretary of Defense. The CoTCCC is responsible for the U.S. military’s very successful casualty care guidelines that have been customized for use for in the prehospital tactical environment.

In 2006, Dr. Butler was the first recipient of an award for outstanding contributions to TCCC. This award is now presented annually by the CoTCCC and has been named for Dr. Butler. He was also the recipient of the 2010 Auerbach Award for exceptional contributions to Wilderness Medicine and the 2009 Norman McSwain Award for outstanding leadership in prehospital trauma care. Dr. Butler's military awards include the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, and the Navy Meritorious Service Medal.


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