Story by Sgt. Zachary Mott
207th Public Affairs Detachment
VICENTE NOBLE, Dominican Republic – People eagerly waited in line for up to five hours for the chance to improve their smile. For more than 70 Dominican villagers, the wait provided them with access to dental care they might otherwise go without.
Beyond the Horizon 2014 allowed dentists and dental hygienists of the U.S. Army Reserve’s 143rd Dental Company a chance to polish skills and teeth at the same time during a dental readiness training exercise in Vicente Noble, Dominican Republic, June 2, 2014. In addition to dental cleanings, the tooth and mouth specialists performed extractions and root canals, filled cavities, X-rayed mouths and conducted general exams for the villagers who ranged in age from toddler to senior citizen.
“It feels good to be able to alleviate the pain in some small way,” said Capt. David Bennett, a dentist with the 143rd Dental Company. “The people are very receptive (to the dental care).”
The 143rd Dental Company, based out of Denver, is here to conduct its annual training requirement and improve its skills as a team and multinational partner.
“It’s not just about training our Soldiers here. It’s training other people from other countries. It’s a great way to build relationships,” said Bennett, a Pleasant Grove, Utah, native.
For some hygienists, the dental readiness training exercise is an opportunity to practice skills they have only used sparingly since completing Advanced Individual Training. For others, it’s a chance to take a leadership role and demonstrate skills they honed either through the military or in a civilian career.
“I help out as far as setting things up and explaining how to do the cleanings,” said Spc. Megan Kelley, a dental hygienist with the 143rd Dental Company who works as a dental assistant for a civilian dental agency when she is not performing her military duties.
Improving dentist and hygienist skills benefits the Soldiers of the 143rd Dental Company as well as the Dominican people.
“I think it’s awesome because they have a need for it, and our dentists are trained so well. It’s great for the community to get really good work done,” said Kelley, a Farmington, Utah, native.
Beyond the Horizon 2014 is a bilateral exercise that focuses on improving the infrastructure of and relationships with partner nations. This year, the United States is collaborating with the Dominican Republic to rebuild schools and other basic engineering needs. Additionally, medical personnel have conducted missions to help improve the physical health and dental work of the local population.
The 143rd Dental Company will continue conducting similar events across the Dominican Republic during its two-week rotation in the Caribbean island nation.