Bringing smiles to Wolf Point

By WOLF POINT, Mont. | 345th Public Affairs Detachment | July 25, 2017

Spc. Claudia Rocha — Spc. Cleopatra Matthews joins more than 25 other Army Reserve Soldiers assigned to the Army Reserve Medical Command’s 7239th Medical Support Unit, who partnered with Fort Peck Indian Health Service to provide health care services to an estimated population of over 8,000 local residents. Both medical and dental services are administered as part of the Department of Defense Innovative Readiness Training, an opportunity that provides hands-on experience for Army Reserve Soldiers to ensure combat readiness while addressing the needs within local communities.

Although Matthews can now quickly assist in crucial dental procedures, Matthews said she never foresaw a future in dentistry. “Initially, I wanted to be a medic in the Army, but I decided to take the available position as a dental specialist,” said Matthews. “After going to school, I fell in love with dentistry and I decided to continue my work on the civilian side.”

When Matthews is not working as a dental specialist with the 7239th Medical Support Unit in Chattanooga, Tennessee, she is a dental assistant at the Dental College of Georgia. Correlating her civilian employment with her Army Reserve military occupational specialty has provided Matthews with an opportunity to form a cooperative relationship between her two careers. “There are skills that I have brought here that I learned at my job like procedures about infection control or state requirements,” said Matthews. “There are also a lot of things I’m learning here with Indian Health Services especially about how to make things more efficient.” Matthews said efficiency is critical while working with the Indian Health Service (IHS) at Fort Peck and the training’s focus on productivity is improving her readiness as an Army Reserve Soldier.

Lt. Col. Joseph Largeman, a general dentist assigned to the 7236th Medical Support Unit, Fort Benning, Georgia, said he agrees that the fast-paced training environment is both challenging and beneficial to the Soldiers. “We have to learn an entire new system and it’s only our first day out here, but we’re already stepping up and working together,” said Largeman as he and Matthews removed their surgical gloves following a successful tooth extraction.

And just as Army Reserve Soldiers work together to complete their medical and dental missions, they also collaborate with civilian providers during their Innovative Readiness Training. Army Reserve Soldiers and medical staff at IHS are working to teach each other from their dissimilar backgrounds while simultaneously meeting community needs at Fort Peck.

Matthews said she finds this training to be valuable as she is able to serve and help those seeking medical support. “Everyone we have treated so far has been very excited and sweet,” said Matthews. “Seeing their excitement has been really encouraging for us.”

Soldiers with the 7239th MSU will continue to work with the two IHS Fort Peck medical facilities through July 29th, utilizing their real-time training opportunity to build beneficial civil-military partnerships between US communities and the Department of Defense.

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