Fort McCoy News August 09, 2013

Blue in a sea of green: Army, Navy form medical team

STORY & PHOTO BY STAFF SGT. DEBRALEE P. BEST
363rd Public Affairs Detachment

FORT McCOY, Wis. — With the only body of water being a puddle in the middle of the dirt road, the Soldiers at Forward Operating Base Enemy Prisoner or War Site 2 at Fort McCoy, have been doing double-takes of the blue uniforms floating around the FOB.

Ten Sailors augmented the 185th Dental Company and the 148th Medical Detachment in dentistry and optometry for their Extended Combat Training at Warrior Exercise.

Photo for medical article
Lt. Col. Will Mannion (left), a dentist with the 185th Dental
Company, examines Lt. Cmdr. Michael Patterson, a dentist with
the Emergency Medical Force, Great Lakes 1. Spc. Jonathan
Garibay (right), a dental assistant with the 185th, assists.

While the Soldiers were surprised by the multi-force presence, for the Navy, this is old hat.

"Our units train with the Army … every year," said Lt. Cmdr. Michael Patterson, dentist, Emergency Medical Force, Great Lakes 1, and Joplin, Mo., native. "I don't know how many years exactly (Great Lakes 1) has been coming up here … but it's been many years. It's a long-standing relationship with this exercise."

Eight Sailors are assisting in dentistry, one in optometry and one is coordinating the Navy activities from the Tactical Operations Center.

Soldiers of the medical units have already integrated the Sailors into Warrior Task Training, including convoy operations and Improvised Explosive Device training.

"It gives our Sailors skills they otherwise would not acquire at regular naval training," said Patterson. "It's really invaluable to them, for anyone who is possibly going to deploy to an area where they'll possibly be working one-on-one with Army personnel, and today that's almost inevitable."

Deploying is what is on the 185th Soldiers' minds. The enlisted members will be mobilizing at the end of the year, so this training is also important to them.

"We're getting the training we need. We've done convoy operations, we've done IEDs and various versions of our (Military Occupational Specialty) training, which is really great," said Lt. Col. Donald Moody, 185th field dental platoon leader, out of Garden Grove, Calif., and a Templeton, Calif., resident. "A lot of our troops, being Reservists, have civilian jobs that aren't in dentistry and we have a chance, just a couple months before the enlisted side is going to go … It's just ultra valuable … All this training may be used."

An important part of this training, according to both Patterson and Moody, is for the Sailors and Soldiers to come together as a team.

"The point for us is to augment and integrate to hopefully achieve a total force cohesiveness that allows us to properly carry out the mission that's assigned to us," said Patterson.

Building professional relationships is also important to Moody.

"(The Navy) brings two other dentists with dental skills, we've offered a lot of training classes and they bring their knowledge and expertise to our classes, we shop-talk and talk about patient care and the different ways things are done," said Moody. "That part's been really good for professional interaction."

Sharing experiences and skills is also important to Patterson. "Hopefully we'll not only be learning, but hopefully our guys will also be giving," said Patterson.

"We're working together and exchanging knowledge."

According to Moody, the integration of the Navy was seamless.

"It's been really great. We have a great unit here. I think it's really amazing when a unit can come and integrate because there is always tension. There's always that little fear, 'Hey, how it's going to work out. We don't know these guys.' But it's been really nice, they've come in and just blended right in."
Patterson was impressed with the reception the Navy received.

"(The Army) has been fantastic, welcoming, superb. I didn't quite know what to expect."

Patterson said he and his Sailors remain mission-focused and ready to gain more knowledge.

"We're very excited to be here and willing to learn and hopefully contribute to this mission," said Patterson. "We wear different color uniforms, but at the end of the day we all have the same mission."