FORT HOOD, Texas – In order to support the warfighter, the medical and dental specialists from the 1st Medical Brigade deploy to austere environments across the world. Success depends on not only their technical expertise, but the effectiveness of their equipment. As the Army continues modernization efforts across the force, opportunities to test vital new equipment become available.
Soldiers from the 502nd Dental Company Area Support helped test the Dental Operating System May 18-20. Currently not fielded, the testing results for the modernized system will inform, if and when, it is available to the force to provide dental care to human service members and military working dogs.
The U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity (USAMMDA) requested that U.S. Army Medical Test and Evaluation Activity (USAMTEAC) conduct an operational assessment of the new system, and Staff Sgt. Gary Sawyer, the primary test officer from USAMTEAC, explained the importance of the process.
“We are assessing if they are able to perform their essential dental care tasks,” Sawyer said. “We also assess if the equipment is effective and if it works in the environment it is designed.”
The new system operates on 110/120 volts alternating current at 50/60 hertz. It uses a high-torque electric hand piece with light-emitting diode illumination, an ultrasonic scaler, an air and water syringe, a saliva ejector, a high-volume extractor and a self-contained water system.
Its transport case has built-in wheels and a handle. When fully loaded, the unit weighs 108 pounds.
Currently, the Dental Field Treatment Operating System is utilized by dental specialists across the force, but requires anywhere from six to eight Soldiers to move it.
In order to be expeditionary, units require modernized equipment that can operate in a Role 2 environment, but also be transported by fewer Soldiers.
“This system is smaller than the older equipment,” said Spc. Meredith Harris, dental assistant, 502nd MCAS. “I love trying equipment like this that will help provide better quality patient care.”
Capt. Kendrick Sawyers, 502nd’s clinical specialty platoon leader, has been in the dental field for two years, and was impressed with the operability of the system.
“It’s huge being in a field dental unit and being able to test its potential,” Sawyers said.
After having the opportunity to learn the ins and outs and test the system’s capabilities, as well as being able to set-up and disassembly the equipment components, the training proved beneficial for all involved.
“I’m thankful for this training because it allows myself and my Soldiers the opportunity to give feedback not only for ourselves, but for the dental field as a whole,” Sawyers said.
Being able to modernize such critical equipment used in support of the warfighter is important for mission success, and the new system provides some welcomed improvements.
The Soldiers also expressed how much more comfortable the modernized system felt during testing.
“It seems like it’s made to be put together in an austere environment,” said Maj. Ross Cook, 502nd DCAS. “This one feels safer to use in an operational environment.”
After those who tested the equipment helped share feedback in a survey and after-action review, USAMTEAC will send their findings to USAMMDA.
“We’ll collect, assess and evaluate the data and put it on an abbreviated operational test report,” Sawyer said. “It will include what we did, why we did it, the strengths and weaknesses during the testing and recommendations – which are provided by the testers.”