NANGARHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – The new dental team at Forward Operating Base Fenty saw firsthand how their Afghan counterparts operate at the Afghan Border Police Zone 1 clinic, Jalalabad, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, Aug. 29.
The clinic, located at the ABP regional headquarters, serves the medical and dental needs of Afghan police officers in Zone 1. This area is comprised of eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar, Kunar and Nuristan provinces that lie along the Afghanistan and Pakistan border.
This was the second time U.S. Army Capt. Akeele Johnson, a dentist with 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Task Force Patriot, and her team met with the Afghan dentists, but their first visit to the ABP clinic in Jalalabad.
Senior Capt. Abdul Hadi, the ABP dentist, gave his counterparts a tour of the facilities and explained some of his treatment techniques.
Johnson, of New Iberia, La., said she was impressed.
“They know a lot,” she said. “I think we just have more technological advances in dentistry compared with them.”
For instance, Hadi said he uses amalgam to fill teeth. Amalgam is a silver-colored substance once widely used in fillings. It has since been replaced in most countries by alternative tooth-colored compounds, called composites.
The use of composites requires special equipment, such as a curing light.
While Hadi has some of the equipment needed to use composites, he said he hoped Johnson could teach him how to operate it better.
Unfortunately, the curing light was being repaired at the time of the visit, so Hadi instead showed Johnson the quick-and-dirty method he uses to mix amalgam: by hand.
Johnson said she hopes in the coming months that she can leave Hadi and his team with useful reference tools to preserve the knowledge they share. In particular, she said she wants to create a guide that will enable the Afghans to address any situation, no matter the circumstances.
“My goal is to make them a dental how-to binder,” she said. “If a patient comes in with this, you do this.”
U.S. Army Pfc. Michael Roberts, a dental technician with Company C, Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 4th BCT, 10th Mountain Division, accompanied Johnson to the clinic and said his objectives are similar to hers.
However, Roberts, of St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, said he would like to focus on teaching safe hygiene practices.
“What I’d like to share with them the most,” said Roberts, “is making sure they’re cleaning everything and [storing] it in the right environment.”
As with composites, this comes down to having the right equipment and knowing how to use it, but Roberts said he is confident this will be easy to pass along.
After all, Hadi and his team are able partners.