Sustaining dental readiness top priority in the Caribbean

By Lt. Col. Carlos Cuebas | 1st Mission Support Command | Dec. 28, 2018

FORT BUCHANAN, Puerto Rico — Approximately 200 Soldiers from the U.S. Army Reserve- P.R. participated in a dental readiness event, known as dental rodeo, conducted at building 315 of this Army Reserve installation, Dec. 17-20, as part of the proactive efforts to sustain the personal readiness of the troops assigned to the largest federal U.S. Army command in the Caribbean.

“The purpose of the dental rodeo is to supply examination and treatment to Soldiers who do not have access to dental care in the island,” said Lt. Col. Eric B. Jackson, 1st Mission Support Command staff nurse.

According to Jackson, as a result of the hurricanes last year, the island lost over 800 dentists, making it difficult, if not impossible, for Soldiers across the island to maintain their dental readiness.

“We did not have the need to conduct a dental treatment event like this one in Puerto Rico since 2006,” added Jackson.

After extensive coordination and planning from the 1st MSC Surgeon’s Office, six dental providers from Logistics Health Incorporated, a contracted company, traveled to Puerto Rico to examine and treat each and every one of the participating Soldiers, doing everything from fillings to root canals. 

“This event is huge and very important to us, because our Soldiers must be able to deploy just as quickly as their active component counterparts,” said Sgt. 1st Class José Ramos, 1st MSC Surgeon’s Office non-commissioned officer.

Soldiers participating in the event also appreciated the opportunity to keep track of their dental health, as a way to fulfill their mission, despite the lack of dentists in the local economy.

“This is a great event, because it helps me to be green on my dental readiness, and comply with the Army standards to be deployable” said Sgt. Alexander Iturralde, from the 271st Human Resources Company.

As a direct result of the dental rodeo, the 166th Regional Support Brigade, a brigade element unit under the 1st MSC, increased their dental readiness in 5 percent. The overall 1st MSC dental readiness is over 90 percent and continues improving. 

It is important to note, that with almost 5,000 troops, the 1st MSC is the largest Army Reserve Mission Support Command in the world. However, it is also the only one that does not have readily available a Military Treatment Facility with comprehensive dental services, which makes the Soldiers solely rely on the scarce availability of civilian providers.

“We are in a unique situation. For example, the 9th MSC, our sister unit in Hawaii, has a big Army Hospital available to them with dental services. That is something that we do not have in Puerto Rico. That is why we will continue conducting and perfecting these dental rodeos, to ensure the readiness of our Soldiers,” added Jackson.

The mission of the 1st MSC, which recently was designated as the Army Reserve Caribbean Geographic Command, is to ensure the overall readiness of its troops to successfully deploy in support of contingency and Defense Support to Civil Authorities (DSCA) operations. 

As a matter of fact, during the emergency created by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017 in Puerto Rico, approximately 2,000 1st MSC Soldiers mobilized in place to assist the community, as part of DSCA operations.

Since September 2001, a hundred percent of the Army Reserve units in Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands have deployed around the world, in support of the needs of the Nation.