Story by PO2 Michael Lieberknecht on 05/05/2017WASHINGTON (May 4, 2017) An aerospace experimental psychologist and department head for operational psychology at Navy Medicine Operational Training Center (NMOTC) in Pensacola, Florida, was awarded the Heroes of Military Medicine (HMM) Award today during a reception at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C.
Lt. Cmdr. Tatana Olson was presented the award by the Center for Public-Private Partnerships and the Henry M. Jackson Foundation.
HMM awards honor outstanding contributions by individuals who have distinguished themselves through excellence and selfless dedication to advancing military medicine. Three of six total awards are presented each year to one active duty medical professional from the Army, Navy, and Air Force, respectively.
Olson knew she was one of the Navy members in consideration for the award, but said she was surprised when her package was selected.
"I was in complete shock," said Olson. "The vast majority of previous award winners were physicians. I am very humbled they picked me."
In addition to her main duties at NMOTC, Olson is also the command's Scientific and Ethical Review Committee (SERC) chair, responsible for the oversight of all research being conducted across the command enterprise. In this capacity, she ensures all scientific research is ethical and complies with human subject research rules, regulations and guidelines.
Before receiving the award, Olson's strong work ethic and drive were noticed by her command in Pensacola. Capt. Mark Goto, NMOTC commanding officer, offered his highest recommendation for Olson to receive the award, expressing his confidence in her expertise.
"Lt. Cmdr. Olson is most deserving of this title," said Goto. "She goes beyond excellence in every area of the focus of this award, and her work has resulted in great improvements in Navy Medicine's support of the warfighter."
When asked why she thought she had been selected for the award, Olson said, "I don't think it was one thing, but the diversity of work I've been involved with during 13 years in the Navy, one of which was working toward the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.'"
In March 2010, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates directed the creation of a working group to undertake a comprehensive review of the impacts of a potential repeal of Section 654 of Title 10 of the United States Code, commonly known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." At the time, Olson was serving as the special assistant for Strategic Planning and Communications for the Chief of Naval Personnel, Vice Adm. Mark Ferguson, when she was asked to serve as one of the leads on the working group. Olson served as the group's medical and social science advisor, where she played a critical role in shaping the policy recommendations over those nine months, which eventually contributed to the decision to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
"This experience really showed me how Navy Medicine, with our breadth of expertise and experience, can help to inform policy decisions," said Olson. "I think each of us has the ability and obligation to contribute to important issues affecting the men and women serving our country."
Olson was introduced at the reception by Vice Adm. Forrest Faison, Navy Surgeon General, before she took the stage. Her comments were brief and emphasized the impact of military individuals and camaraderie throughout all services.
"Time and time again I have seen there is nothing that cannot be accomplished by compassionate, committed individuals working toward a common goal," said Olson. "The brave men and women serving our country they are my true north,' and I dedicate this award to them. Thank you."