132 MDG Guardsman provides dental care to remote Alaskan village
By Staff Sgt. J. Paul Croxon , Defense Media Activity-San Antonio
/ Published April 19, 2010
KOTZEBUE, Alaska (AFNS) -- Three Airmen providing care to remote villages here is proving to be a productive way to conduct much-needed training.
The Airmen, deployed from bases across the country in support of Operation Arctic Care, a joint innovative readiness training exercise aimed at providing medical care to remote villages in northeast Alaska.
Together, they have varied military backgrounds in the active duty, Guard and Reserve components that add experience and perspective to the unique mission.
Maj. Blake Moore, an active-duty dentist, specializes in pediatric dentistry, which is a good fit for Kotzebue since the majority of the patients he sees are children, many of whom have an urgent need of dental care.
"We're seeing a lot of cavities," said Major Moore, who deployed from Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska. "I suspect part of the reason is from a reduced access to care and diet."
As a dentist who specializes in working with children, Major Moore has developed a number of techniques to put his small patients at ease.
"He's great at making the children comfortable and making the instruments less scary," said Staff Sgt. Molly Skovronski, a dental assistant and guardsman deployed from the 132nd Medical Group in Des Moines, Iowa. "He has a name for every instrument; a clamp that holds the mouth open he calls a tooth pillow. The high-speed drill he calls his whistle and the low-speed drill he calls his snow machine."
Techniques like these prove to be invaluable training opportunities for Airmen who don't work in the career field full-time.
"I'm a radiology technician in my civilian job," said Master Sgt. Patricia Glenn, a guardsman deployed from the 117th Air Refueling Wing in Birmingham, Ala. "I'm here fulfilling my annual tour commitment and this has been a great training opportunity. This is the first time I've worked so much with children."
Sergeant Glenn has experience in every component of the Air Force with four years of active-duty experience followed by a year in the Reserve and is working on her 15th year in the Air National Guard. During her 20 years of service, she has been in three career fields.
Training that incorporates an operational mission like Operation Arctic Care is a much more valuable training experience since the villagers also benefit, she said.
Like Sergeant Glenn, this is the first time Sergeant Skovronski has worked with children.
It's taken a little getting used to, but being able to work with a pediatric dentist has enhanced her appreciation for the career field, she said.
"It took me about a day to get used to working around children," she said. "You have to learn to look at things they way they do. Everything could be scary if you approach it wrong. I don't do this every day. I'm a full-time student. I feel lucky that I could come here, truly blessed."
Though Sergeant Skovronski said she chose to be a dental assistant as guardsman because she wanted to see if she enjoyed it one weekend a month, this deployment has proven to her that it's what she wants to do.
"My admissions counselor at my school told me while I was here that I needed to register for classes," she said. "She asked what classes I wanted to register for and I'm thinking of changing majors from liberal arts to the dental hygienist program because of this experience."
It seems like Operation Arctic Care has produced one more dental assistant in addition to dozens of whiter Alaskan smiles.