20 July 2021

Profiles in Leadership: LTC (Ret.) Stephen DeLellis, PA-C

Army Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Stephen DeLellis, PA-C is a proven leader, mentor, researcher, and driving force in military operational medicine. With a long and decorated career spanning 36 years in uniform and more than 16 combat deployments in six conflicts, he has dedicated his career to caring for America’s elite warriors on far-forward battlefields.

Today, LTC (Ret.) DeLellis is the Executive Director of the Fort Liberty Research Institute, a program of The Geneva Foundation (Geneva), where he continues his important work supporting the operational needs of the warfighter.

From E-1 to E-9 and O-1 to O-6

In 1983, DeLellis enlisted in the Army as a Private and rose to the rank of Sergeant Major in our nation’s most elite units.

Upon graduating from Physician Assistant (PA) School, he served as a Battalion PA in the 82nd Airborne Division, and 3rd Special Forces Group. From 2004 to 2014, he served as a Squadron PA, Family Medicine Clinic Supervisor, and Deputy Surgeon for the Army’s Special Missions Unit. LTC (Ret.) DeLellis served briefly as the Deputy Surgeon for the XVIII Airborne Corps before moving back to the U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) as the Chief of Medical Training and the Deputy Command Surgeon.

Traumatic Brain Injury Research

LTC (Ret.) DeLellis’s medical career has been dedicated to understanding the effects of traumatic brain injury (TBI) in service members and veterans. In conjunction with Womack Army Medical Center and several universities, he helped to develop one of the most comprehensive neurocognitive baseline and post-injury assessment programs in the Department of Defense. Furthermore, he has managed the longest continually running TBI surveillance project in the Special Operations community and has co-authored more than 40 articles on mTBI in SOF.

In his current role as Executive Director of FLRI, DeLellis has successfully secured funding for the next iteration of TBI research within USSOCOM, known as the Assessing and Tracking Tactical Forces-2 (ATTAC-2) initiative. This effort is funded to include all Services and is the first-ever study to cover the entire lifespan of a SOF operator from selection into SOF through retirement, in support of the “SOF for life” mantra.

Medical research focused on soldiers in remote locations

Among other research accomplishments, LTC (Ret.) DeLellis helped build a demonstration for the Army Surgeon General that showed the capability for a non-surgeon to be able to save a life in a remote location using available technology to have a surgeon supervise the procedure, even with an ocean between them. Furthermore, he has researched methods to prevent acute mountain sickness (AMS), the most common form of altitude illness affecting athletes and adventurists who work or play at elevations greater than 10,000 ft above mean sea level. AMS also affects SOF who frequently conduct expeditions in these high altitudes. His research tested a prophylaxis as successful prevention for AMS.

Among his many military awards and decorations, LTC (Ret.) DeLellis was recognized for his TBI work as an Army Medical Specialist Corps’ Iron Major in 2012, inducted into the Order of Military Medical Merit (O2M3) in 2018, was the Army recipient of the Henry M. Jackson Foundation’s Hero of Military Medicine award in 2019, and was inducted into the Special Operations Forces Medical Hall of Honor, Inaugural Class of 2024.

LTC (Ret.) DeLellis has proudly served in Operation Just Cause, Panama, Operation Gothic Serpent, Mogadishu, Somalia, Operation Uphold Democracy, Haiti, Operation Deliberate Force, The Balkans, U.S. Embassy Duty, Manila, Philippines, and has participated in eleven rotations in Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom.

Steve DeLellis