107th ATKW Dentist Brings Skills to North Carolina Residents
By Staff Sgt. Ryan Campbell, 107th Attack Wing
/ Published August 29, 2017
HAYESVILLE, N.C. -- A dentist from the 107th Attack Wing, New York Air National Guard, provided dental care to North Carolina residents during an Innovative Readiness Training exercise, July 31 to August 13, 2017.
Lt. Col. Raymond Miller, the base dental surgeon, was one of more than 10 members of the 107th Medical Group to participate in Smoky Mountain Medical 2017. They joined more than 240 other service members from across the Air Force, Army and Navy, as they offered dental, optometry, veterinary and general health services from Clay and Swain Counties.
“In dental, we offered exams, x-rays, cleanings, restoring or filling teeth, and removing teeth,” said Miller. “For the community there are people in need coming in here and having work done and telling us if we didn’t do it they wouldn’t be able to have it done.”
The training also prepares members to be able to work in conditions that are not familiar to them. It also simulates what they might find in deployed environments.
“This is austere conditions, I’m in a classroom in a school,” said Miller. “The equipment we have I have to get used to that, the materials, it’s all different. We are in a comfort zone back in our own offices. Here, this could be just like a deployment where you have to go here, you have to do this and this is what you have, and you make due.”
Overcoming these obstacles, Miller was able to deliver a level of dental care that was noticed by those around him.
“He did a ton of restorative dentistry, he did extractions too, he was fantastic,” said Lt. Col. Michael Burbach, chief dental officer assigned to the 155th Air Refueling Wing, Lincoln Air National Guard Base, Nebraska Air National Guard, and the dental officer in charge for the IRT. “He did a great job and did a lot of work. Every time I saw him he was head down with a patient, he was a great member of the team.”
The IRT allowed members of different units to work together, which gives them an experience they wouldn’t get at their home unit.
“We have people from all over the place, all over the world even,” said Burbach. “If we were going to deploy some place you’re not going to go with just your people, you have to be able to work with people from all over, and that’s what happened here.
“You had people who were strangers on July 31 who by time the time they started seeing patients on August 2 were working together like they had always been together in a unit.”
Getting to be part of the IRT was something that the 107th MDG sought out and applied for. The training would fulfill certain requirements that they had to meet.
“The 107th MDG submitted the application to the National Guard Bureau indicating that they would like to take part in an IRT mission,” said Chief Master Sgt. Sondra Ramos, chief enlisted manager of the 107th MDG and non-commissioned officer in charge of the Smoky Mountain IRT. “Attending these types of missions allows the MDG to remain current in their requirement for recurring skills verification as well as use of their skills in a setting outside of a training environment and have real world experience.”
The training left the 107th Airmen feeling accomplished and proud of the work they were able to do, and the health care they were able to provide to the local community members.
“I know the 107th Airmen are thrilled that they were able to complete some needed and overdue training, while helping Americans in our own backyard receive some greatly needed medical services at no-cost,” said Ramos. “I am proud to lead the Airmen, Sailors and Soldiers at Smoky Mountain Medical 2017 and even more so for my Airmen in the 107th MDG. They have certainly had a huge impact on those communities that neither one will forget.”
For Airmen such as Miller, the appreciation shown by the community members has left a mark on them as they returned home.
“One of my colleagues got a card from a patients and they thanked him for keeping him in the chair for four hours to get all his teeth out because he wouldn’t have been able to get it done,” said Miller. “I mean, somebody thanking you for keeping them in a dental chair for four hours when you think, who would want to?
“He needed it done, he wanted it done so he could get dentures. If he didn’t have this done here he would have to wait another year or two years so he was willing to put that time in and grateful that we were able to do it for him. So it was amazing. The people are so thankful. They thank you for being here and doing what you’re doing. It feels good.”