Six-member dental team treats 55 Swazi patients
August 14, 2009
HHOHHO, Swaziland (August 8, 2009) - A six-member combined dental team from the Air Force, Army and Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force (USDF) treated 55 patients during the two-day dental civic assistance project (DENCAP) as part of exercise MEDFLAG 09 here, Aug. 6-7.
Three of the four Air Force members are assigned to the 920th Aeromedical Staging Squadron out of Patrick AFB, Fla. The fourth, Air Force Col. Dean Whitman is an oral and maxillofacial surgeon with the 59th Medical Wing at Wilford Medical Hall, Texas, and Army Spc. Reginald Lee, 212th Combat Support Hospital dental hygienist out of Vicenza, Italy, is the fifth member of the team.
"I don't know where else I would want to be," Whitman said. "It has been an awesome experience to come to South Africa and help the people of Swaziland out."
Colonel Whitman said the team's success wouldn't happen without its sixth member, 1st Lt. Themba Dlamini, USDF dental hygienist and exercise MEDFLAG 09 interpreter.
"There is always some sort of language barrier when you go to another country," Whitman said. "Even though some of the villagers speak English, the majority of them speak Swahili. It has been great to have Themba interpret for us."
"I have really enjoyed working with my fellow U.S. dental members," Dlamini said. "Not too many fellow countrymen visit a dentist office very often, so to have Col. Whitman and Maj. Kevin Hachmeister come in and extract a badly decayed tooth was a great benefit."
The six-person dental team saw 11 patients on day one and 44 patients the second day. They are scheduled to visit a village in each of the other three provinces - Mkhwakhweni, Mafutseni and Shiselweni - during the final week of the MEDFLAG exercise.
MEDFLAG 09, is a joint and combined military exercise conducted by U.S. Army Africa (USARAF) which supports the AFRICOM commander's Theater Security Cooperation (TSC) strategy wherein U.S. military send medical capabilities to African countries. The exercise consisted of three phases: classroom training, a mass casualty exercise (MASCAL) and humanitarian and civic assistance (HCA) events, to include medical, dental and veterinary assistance to the people of Swaziland.
The U.S. servicemembers are in Swaziland at the invitation of the Swazi government and in coordination with the U.S. Embassy in Mbabane. The exercise is an example of U.S. military's commitment to a partner relationship with the country of Swaziland.