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July 13, 2012

Training

Operation Ready Warrior mobile vans take care of WAREX Soldiers’ dental needs

Story & photo by Sgt. Tracy Ellingsen, 304th Sustainment Brigade

Operation Ready Warrior operated three mobile dental vans to get Warrior Exercise 2012 participants and their Soldiers ready for possible deployment.
PHOTO: Maj. Eduardo Olegario performs an examination on a patient in a mobile dental van participating in Warrior Exercise. Photo by Sgt. Tracy Ellingsen
Maj. Eduardo Olegario performs an examination  in a mobile dental van on a patient participating in Warrior Exercise.

“We’re trying to convert people from Dental Class Four to Dental Class Three,” said Maj. Jacqueline Ojimba, a public health dentist.

Class Four refers to a Soldier who is due for an exam.

Class Three refers to a Soldier who has had an exam, but may need some dental work done to make them fully deployable.
Not only did the mobile dental vans do exams, but, when necessary, they also provided treatment.

“We’ve done simple fillings on people,” said Ojimba.

They also were on call to deal with any dental emergencies that happened on the FOBs.

“Someone with tooth (aches or) pain is considered a dental emergency,” said Ojimba.

The vans were staffed by members of the 455th Medical Company (Dental Services) from Fort Devens, Mass.

From checking patients in, to doing X-rays, to the actual dentists themselves, the Soldiers of the 455th worked nonstop to get their fellow servicemembers’ smiles in perfect working order.

While running the one-stop shop is a lot of work, all of this experience also helped them to become more proficient at their jobs.

“It’s been really good training,” said Ojimba. “The hours are long but they’re all still smiling.”

Most of the feedback they received from their clientele was positive. Commanders were glad to be taking care of their Soldiers’ dental needs while at annual training, rather than taking care of it back at home. The air-conditioned vans provided patients with a brief respite from the weather, and usually there were movies playing on the vans’ flat-screen television sets.

Of course, not everyone is a fan of dentists, and the dental teams had to deal with some “tense” patients.

Still, Ojimba reassured Soldiers that a trip to one of the dental vans is nothing to be afraid of.

“Everybody we’ve seen in this clinic has walked out on their own two feet,” she said. “And most of them were smiling.”

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