News: Always at the ready: 1st Dental Bn. trains for expeditionary environment
Story by Lance Cpl. Shaltiel Dominguez
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – Six dental officers and 12 dental technicians with 1st Dental Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, conducted a field exercise in preparation for supporting the 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., Sept. 20, 2013.
The 1st Dental Bn. maintains its capabilities primarily in garrison but the exercise marks a step towards operating in a deployed environment. This is in line with the MEB’s mission as an immediate response force that can operate independently. The exercise prepared the dental unit for this transition and allowed the staff to assess their readiness.
“The assessments are based on the ability of a unit to accomplish the tasks to a standard and under specific conditions so we can be deployed on a moment’s notice,” said Senior Chief Arnel Salapantan, operations chief, 1st Dental Bn., 1st MLG. “The point of us being out here is to get us ready.”
As preparation for operating in a combat environment, the dentists and corpsmen brought crucial equipment to the field such as a field X-ray, a complete dental operatory and a sterilization machine.
“It’s essential that we do our own training to make sure our personnel are familiar with our gear,” said Salapantan, a native of San Diego. “We also have to be efficient in case we have to deploy in support of world contingency operations.”
In addition, Salapantan also stressed the importance of the unit’s flexibility in being comprised of Fleet Marine Force corpsmen who are not only able to perform dental operations, but medical ones as well.
“We’re not just tasked to do humanitarian assistance or disaster relief missions,” said Salapantan. “We have the capabilities to deliver oral emergency care to the fight, which I think is the biggest thing we can provide. We have medically capable sailors who are FMF corpsmen.”
Salapantan believes that the integration of medical and dental capabilities is crucial to providing care in an expeditionary environment and will be important as 1st Dental Bn. prepares for future deployments.
“Dental and medical go hand in hand,” said Salapantan. “With those two capabilities in the fight, we’ll be able to do what the MEB requires of us.”
The exercise provided the less experienced corpsmen with familiarity on using their equipment in field conditions where there is limited power and supplies compared to the dental office.
“It’s actually good, hands-on training,” said Seaman Cory Muse, a dental technician with 1st Dental Bn., 1st MLG. “They can call you out to deployment at any time and you have to be ready.”
For the dentists and dental technicians of 1st Dental Battalion, their first and foremost objective is taking care of the Marines and sailors entrusted to them.
“When our Marines and sailors go out there, they will never have to wonder whether or not we can take care of them,” said Commander Hien Trinh, officer-in-charge, 1st Dental Bn., 1st MLG. “We can take care of every aspect of their dental needs, from toothaches to root canals.”
“After this exercise, I’m confident to say that we’re ready to go at anytime,” said Trinh, a native of Lansing, Mich.