October 15, 2021
The Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute (AFRRI), a part of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU) is a unique Department of Defense asset, responsible for preserving and protecting the health and performance of U.S. military personnel operating in potential radiologically contaminated multi-domain conventional or hybrid battle spaces and urban environments. AFRRI staff do this through research, education, and operational training that advance understanding of the effects of ionizing radiation in line with the 21st century dynamic threat landscape and national security threats posed by non-state actors, hostile state actors, and near-peer adversaries, as well as providing rapidly deployable radiation medicine expertise in response to a radiological or nuclear event domestically or abroad. AFRRI is an important part of the U.S. National Security Strategy and is a critical component of the U.S. National Strategy for Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction. It is important to note that the Department of Defense (DOD) is the largest federal component of radiation occupational exposure so radiation biology research is critical to maintaining a healthy workforce. In addition, DOD also maintains several radiation exposure repositories and contributes to the ongoing radiation epidemiology study, the “Million Person Study”.
Hailing from San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico, Elih M. Velazquez-Delgado graduated from the Universidad del Turabo, Gurabo, Puerto Rico with a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry. He proceeded to graduate school at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst (UMASS) for his doctorate of philosophy in biochemistry. After graduating from UMASS in 2012, he completed two post-doctoral trainings at the Broad Institute of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard in Boston, Massachusetts and in St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, in Memphis, Tennessee. The post-doctoral training enabled Elih to specialize in drug discovery, investigating and developing novel technologies to establish novel classes of protein targets generally viewed as “undruggable,” a goal that is not pursued by large pharmaceutical and biotech companies.
LT Velazquez-Delgado direct commissioned into the Navy as part of the Biochemistry Specialty in 2014 and his first assignment was to report to the Navy Drug Screening Laboratory Great Lakes at Great Lakes, Illinois where he served as Initial Testing Department Head, Deputy Director for Operations, Production Manager, Certifying Official, and Court Martial Expert Witness until October 2017. During this tour, he also planned and executed Ribbon Cutting and Change of Command Ceremonies displaying a new $18M state-of-the-art facility, for which he is also a plank owner. After his successful tour, he sailed to the Naval Medical Research Center (NMRC) in Maryland.
LT Velazquez-Delgado reported to NMRC in Frederick Maryland and served as Deputy Department Head of the Genomics and Bioinformatics Department, and later the Immunodiagnostics Department, while filling in as the Naval Medical Research and Development (NMR&D) Security Manager from October 2017 to November 2020. At NMRC, he focused on biodefense and biosurvilliance by directing the production of biowarfare agent detection reagents supporting USCENTCOM, Special Operation Forces and Chemical Biological Radiation Nuclear Explosive (CBRNE) tactical units.
LT Velazquez-Delgado was hand selected by the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED) for special assignment to augment Fleet Surgical Team SEVEN’s (FST-7) capabilities and response to the global Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic. FST-7 is assigned to Commander, Task Force 76 (CTF-76) and Commander, Amphibious Squadron ELEVEN (PHIBRON-11) onboard the USS AMERICA (LHA-6) (AMA) Expeditionary Strike Group SEVEN (ESG). The AMA ESG is part of the Forward Deployed Naval Forces, based out of Sasebo, Japan. Additionally, the AMA ESG includes the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (31st MEU) in charge of patrolling the USINDOPACOM Area of Responsibility. The ships and Sailors of AMA ESG, alongside the 31st MEU, provide a worldwide deployable Crisis Response force of over 5,000 Sailors and Marines.
His military awards include one Joint Commendation Medal, three Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, the Armed Forces Service Medal, the Humanitarian Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Global War of Terrorism Medal, the National Defense Medal, the Pistol Expert Medal, the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal and the Surface Warfare Medical Department Officer Pin.
LT Velazquez-Delgado is currently serving as the Scientific Research Department Head at the Uniformed Service University, Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute overseeing an annual budget of $20M to preserve and protect the health and performance of U.S. military personnel through research and training that advance the understanding of the effects of ionizing radiation.