|Story & photo by Sgt. Tracy Ellingsen, 304th
Operation Ready Warrior operated three mobile dental vans to get Warrior
Exercise 2012 participants and their Soldiers ready for possible
Maj. Eduardo Olegario performs an
examination in a mobile dental van on a patient participating in
“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,”
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
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.”