News: Dental technicians with ND Guard train, work in Ghana
Story by Pfc. Jessica Raasch
ACCRA, Ghana — With the assistance of dental technicians from the North Dakota National Guard, soldiers from the 965th Dental Company, U.S. Army Reserve, Texas, continue to share information with the Ghana Armed Forces about U.S. dental practices during MEDFLAG 11 here, July 18.
The GAF and 965th Dental Company participated in group instruction to ensure both teams leave MEDFLAG 11 with a better understanding of their own capabilities while learning new ways to do their jobs more efficiently.
“We want to learn different ways of doing dentistry and learn new techniques to bring back to our other soldiers,” said Staff Sgt. Charles Bagley, platoon sergeant for the 965th. “They are willing to exchange information if we are willing to receive it, and it makes me realize how much we take for granted.”
The two teams spent the first half of the 10-day exercise in a classroom environment sharing information and comparing techniques to both review procedures and learn new ways of completing tasks.
One section of the training included a tour of the 37th Military Hospital in Accra. The tour was intended to provide U.S. soldiers with a first-hand look at what GAF dental equipment looks like and how it operates.
“Their equipment is state of the art,” said Spc. Ross Lien, a Bismarck, N.D., native and one of two dental technicians from the 814th Medical Company of the North Dakota Army National Guard who are assisting the 965th and GAF during MEDFLAG 11. “Much of it was the same, if not better, than the equipment we use.”
The second half of the 10-day exercise is comprised of hands-on application of the skills reviewed in the classroom segment.
Although the goal of the hands-on application is the same for both teams, both teams have to adjust to new ways of completing the task.
“In Ghana, we don’t have (inhalation sedation) so we have to bribe a child to have his teeth looked at,” said Cpl. Felix Armah, a dental technician for the 37th Military Hospital. “They are scared of the instruments, so we have to give them a cookie or candy to convince them to let us look in their mouths.”
Three humanitarian civic assistance sites will be held to provide basic dental care to locals who normally cannot travel to a dentist office. Two of those sites have been completed, one each in Ablekuma-Mataheko and Dawhenya. The final site will be in Doryumu.
The main role of the dental team is to extract teeth that cannot be fixed by other means.
“Many of these people do not have the money or transportation to get this kind of treatment,” Lien said. “By getting out in the communities and working with the Ghana Armed Forces, we are able to help those who really are in need.”
The dental teams set up three work spaces at each humanitarian civic assistance site in hopes of giving quality care to as many people in the community as possible. The GAF and U.S. forces work side by side at the site to continue building a bond between the teams.
“It is truly eye-opening to be halfway across the world and to see how their army operates while also seeing the differences and similarities between our armies,” Lien said.
Sponsored by U.S. Army Africa, the bilateral MEDFLAG 11 exercise has strengthened the relationship between the U.S. and Ghana through collaborative training and sharing of medical expertise, as well as joint humanitarian civic assistance in local communities.
“The HCA sites give both forces a chance to see how we respond to working in a community,” Bagley said. “This will help build cohesion between the Ghana Armed Forces and the community.”
A key program in the united States’ efforts to partner with the government of Ghana, MEDFLAG 11 is the latest in a series of exercises involving U.S. military forces and African partner militaries with the aim of establishing and developing military interoperability, regional relationships, synchronization of effort and capacity-building.
Headquartered in Vicenza, Italy, U.S. Army Africa is the Army Service Component Command for U.S. Africa Command. Dedicated to positive change in Africa, U.S. Army Africa enables full spectrum operations while conducting sustained security engagement with African land forces to promote security, stability and peace. U.S. Army Africa is commanded by Maj. Gen. David R. Hogg.