FORT HUNTER LIGGETT, Calif. – Soldiers could improve their dental readiness even as they improved their combat readiness during Warrior Exercise 91 13-01 at Fort Hunter Liggett, Calif.
U.S. Army Col. Enrique Garcia, commander of the 965th Dental Company Aerial Support out of Seagoville, Texas, said providing dental treatment in the field helps make sure the soldiers are deployable.
“Dental injuries are one area that actually will get soldiers out of the fight,” said Garcia. “As much as we think about soldiers getting shot, or falling down and breaking their leg and being taken out of the action, a toothache can also get a soldier out of the mix.”
When Reserve soldiers are at home in their civilian lives, they would have to wait for a voucher from the military, as well as set a dental appointment, which could take days or over a month. While here at Fort Hunter Liggett, the more than 3,500 soldiers were able to bypass the voucher system and their civilian dentist.
Garcia, who is from Redondo Beach, Calif., said it helps put soldiers in the right medical categories for unit preparedness.
“Commanders have an opportunity to get their troops examined and get them out of class 4 which means they haven’t had an exam in over a year, and get them down to a class 3, 2, or 1,” he said.
The 965th DC is staffed with dental surgeons, nurses and assistants equipped to perform dental procedures while in the field.
U.S. Army Maj. Dietrich Whisennand from Dallas, the executive officer with the 965th DC said he wants his troops participating in the Warrior Exercise to learn skills they can use if activated.
“They need to learn to turn the military off and on to some degree,” said Whissennad. “It’s mission first, people always and the rest will follow.”
U.S. Army Cpl. Jimmie O. Mackey from Chicago, a shower, laundry and clothing repair specialist with the 801st Combat Support Hospital, benefited from having the dental treatment available in the field.
“I thought I would have to go off post to get a fill-in, but they did that and a cleaning in thirty minutes,” said Mackey. “So that was good because it got me back in the fight.”