CAMP LEJEUNE, NC – A physical therapist with U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command was honored recently alongside the military’s top medical professionals at a United Services Organization dinner in Arlington, Va. March 14.
Lieutenant Commander Trevor Petrou received a Special Salute Award on behalf of MARSOC and the Marine Corps for exceptional achievements and contributions to the military medical field, including several groundbreaking programs that he helped to develop.
“He’s a fantastic guy,” said Brad Lambert, MARSOC’s Performance and Resiliency program manager. “He’s brought a lot to the job, and he’s done some unprecedented things.”
A native of Altoona, Pa., Petrou boasts an extensive career that spans three services and multiple duty stations. Beginning as a Pennsylvania National Guardsman, Petrou developed a passion for physical therapy in college.
“I was involved in track and field, and I was always interested in performance and athletics,” said Petrou. “I thought, ‘what better way to explore that interest than the physical therapy field.’”
Petrou left the National Guard after college and joined the Air Force, serving nine years as a physical therapist and attaining the rank of major. He left the service in 2006 to care for a terminally ill family member.
“I never left the service on my own terms,” said Petrou. “I always wanted to go back.”
By the time Petrou returned to the military in 2008, there were no available active duty Air Force billets. So he enlisted in the Navy, his third service, and two months later found himself aboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and bound for the Arabian Gulf. Petrou served aboard “the Ike” for 27 months, and as the ship’s command health promotions coordinator secured a gold star rating for the vessel in 2009. The Ike’s health promotions program was ranked the best in the fleet; an honor that in 2010 turned into a Physical Therapist of the Year award for Petrou.
The next stop in his career was MARSOC.
“I requested to come here,” he said. “Ideas and techniques in military performance are often developed at [U.S. Special Operations Command], and those trickle down to the conventional forces. I wanted to be a part of cutting edge programs.”
One of these programs is the multi-disciplinary pain management clinic, which Petrou helped create. Unique within SOCOM, the weekly clinic treats patients through non-narcotic measures, using acupuncture and dry needling techniques to manage pain, anxiety and other ailments.
The clinic is a development within MARSOC’s Performance and Resiliency (PERRES) program, which takes a “holistic approach” to fitness by targeting not only the body, but the mind and spirit as well.
Recently, Petrou took the pain management clinic to operators on the front lines. Deploying in support of the MARSOC-led Special Operations Task Force – West, Petrou teamed up with a psychologist, a chaplain and a surgeon to form what they called “the PERRES roadshow.”
“Physical therapists and psychologists have deployed with SOTF’s before, but never on a full-team approach,” said Petrou. “We were able to visit not only every MARSOC team in the SOTF, but every operator, to include SEALs and Army special operations teams.”
Petrou and his team saw more than 325 patients over a 35-day period.
“We did everything from spinal manipulation to exercise instruction to acupuncture and dry needling,” said Petrou. “We did a lot of good things.”
And there are more good things to come, says Petrou. Over the next year, he plans to finish his Command and Staff college (where he is currently maintaining a 96-percent grade point average), make another trip to Afghanistan with the PERRES roadshow, and continue to push the pain management clinic as a model within SOCOM.
After leaving MARSOC in May of 2014, Petrou will try to stay in the special operations community.
“[MARSOC] is a rewarding duty station,” he said. “I’m exposed to elite warrior athletes on a daily basis, so it’s extremely gratifying to get to work with the best of the best.”