Dental technicians aid ailing Afghan

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Nadine Y. Barclay
  • 438th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
The mission readiness of Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines in the Afghan theater is a top priority to dental technicians from the 502nd Dental Company, Area Support, 1st Medical Brigade at Kandahar Air Wing, Afghanistan. The professionals are dedicated to keeping warriors fit for duty and they are often met with challenging cases.

Recently technicians from KAW's "Role 3" Hospital were met with a unique patient when advisers from the 738th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group brought in an Afghan air force service member with a serious dental emergency.

AAF Sgt. Mohammad Noori, KAW Mi-17 flight engineer, brought his problem to the attention of 738th AEAG advisers during his annual flight physical.

"We were conducting medical records reviews to get everyone current on flight physicals when Norri complained about being in pain," said Master Sgt. David Dunlap, a flight medical adviser with the 738th AEAG.

Since dental care provided by Role 3 for the AAF and Afghan National Army is supposed to be categorized as "life, limb, or eyesight", advisers were unsure about what could be done.

"We tried to evaluate the situation before bringing him into Role 3 to make sure he would qualify for care," said the Dwight, Ill., native deployed from Scott Air Force Base, Ill. "We felt that his condition was serious enough that he would have no problems being treated."

The 502nd, based at Fort Hood, Texas, is the largest worldwide deployable dental company in the U.S. Army. Its main mission is to provide general and emergency dental care and support to units in theater.

U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Eric Talley, 502nd DCAS NCO in charge, said that this was an extreme dental emergency that needed immediate attention.

"For this patient, who is suffering of a condition caused by previous work performed, one problem has led to another problem and could quickly become life threatening," said Talley.

The dental work included surgical removal of two roots left in by a previous dentist and the evaluation of an area where a tooth was removed to avoid dry sockets from forming and the construction of two semi-permanent front teeth.

Army Capt. Robert Rehl, 502nd DCAS dentist who volunteered for his first deployment from Fort Knox, Ky., said that although the work was routine, it was still met with the different challenges that are inherent for every patient.

"The challenges that we face is that you don't know how every patient and their bodies will respond to surgery and treatment and some patients don't want to be in the dental chair," said Rehl. "Noori has been a great patient the whole way through and not many people would have been able to do that."

He said that the opportunity to treat Noori's condition was a good way to show to commitment that America has made to Afghanistan.

"The Afghans always say "from the heart" and this was from the heart, he had the need so we recognized and treated those needs," said the Marietta, Ohio native. "Just like we communicate with our families about our experiences, so does he. Hopefully this made a good impression on him for the future."

The experience of this unique situation proved to be a worthwhile experience for all those involved.

Army Pfc. Elisamuel Suarez, 502nd DCAS dental technician on his first deployment, said that this was definitely a new experience for him and one he'll remember.

"This was the first time that I've had the chance to interact with an Afghan," said the Brooklyn, N.Y. native. "He was very appreciative and polite to us the whole time which made our job easier so this is definitely an experience that I'll remember from my first deployment."

Smiles filled the room as the dental visit came to a close and relationships between sister services and multinational partners were strengthened.

"I am very thankful to the advisers and the dentist for helping me with my problem; I am happy now and look forward to working with them and others in the future, they are now my friends," said Noori.