By Sgt. Margaret Taylor September 12, 2013
NANGARHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan -- The new dental team at Forward Operating Base Fenty recently saw firsthand how their Afghan counterparts operate at the Afghan Border Police Zone 1 clinic in Jalalabad.
The clinic, located at the ABP regional headquarters, serves the medical and dental needs of Afghan police officers in Zone 1. This area is composed of eastern Afghanistan's Nangarhar, Kunar and Nuristan provinces, which lie along the border with Pakistan.
It was the second time Capt. Akeele Johnson, a dentist with 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Task Force Patriot, and her team met with the Afghan dentists, but their first visit to the ABP clinic in Jalalabad.
Senior Capt. Abdul Hadi, the ABP dentist, gave his counterparts a tour of the facilities and explained some of his treatment techniques.
Johnson said she was impressed.
"They know a lot," she said. "I think we just have more technological advances in dentistry compared with them."
For instance, Hadi said he uses amalgam to fill teeth. Amalgam is a silver-colored substance once widely used in fillings. It has since been replaced in most countries by alternative tooth-colored compounds called composites.
The use of composites requires special equipment, such as a curing light.
While Hadi has some of the equipment needed to use composites, he said he hoped Johnson could teach him how to better operate it.
Unfortunately, the curing light was being repaired at the time of the visit, so Hadi instead showed Johnson the "quick-and-dirty method" he uses to mix amalgam: by hand.
Johnson said she hopes in the coming months that she can leave Hadi and his team with useful reference tools to preserve the knowledge they share. In particular, she said she wants to create a guide that will enable the Afghans to address any situation, no matter the circumstances.
"My goal is to make them a dental how-to binder," she said. "If a patient comes in with this, you do this."
Pfc. Michael Roberts, a dental technician with C Company, 4th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 4th BCT, accompanied Johnson to the clinic and said his objectives are similar to hers.
However, Roberts said he would like to focus on teaching safe hygiene practices.
"What I'd like to share with them the most is making sure they're cleaning everything and (storing) it in the right environment," Roberts said.
As with composites, this comes down to having the right equipment and knowing how to use it. But Roberts said he is confident it will be easy to pass along.
After all, Hadi and his team are able partners.