By Sarah Peachey, Fort Polk Guardian staff writerJuly 18, 2011
FORT POLK, La. " Col. David G. Smith took hold of the unit colors and command of Dental Activity from Col. Jamie P. Houston July 8 during a change of command ceremony at Fort Polk’s Warrior Field.
Smith is no stranger to Fort Polk, as he was commander of DENTAC from June 2005 to June 2008 before a move to Fort Sam Houston, Texas, as officer in charge of Rhoades Dental Clinic. Smith accepted command in hopes of continuing DENTAC’s strong record of great care, he said.
Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk commander Brig. Gen. Clarence K.K. Chinn opened the ceremony.
“For three years, Colonel Houston has done a remarkable job leading his Soldiers in one of the most important missions in the Army " the care, dental health, well-being and readiness of the Soldiers and Family members living on this installation,” Chinn said.
Many memories of Houston’s tenure were peppered with comical stories and Chinn missed no chance to reminisce.
“Colonel Houston said dentistry is the only profession where he can tell his superiors to open and shut their mouths and actually get away with it,” Chinn said.
Chinn continued by discussing the Fort Polk Intramural Softball team that Houston named the “Mad Batters” because “we get mad when we don’t win,” Chinn said.
“He’s so dedicated to the team, I heard he asked one of his patients to let out a few loud screams,” Chinn said. “When the patient asked why, Jamie told them, ‘There are too many patients in the waiting room and I don’t want to miss our softball game tonight.’”
“Jamie has led us to 16 consecutive wins, due in great part I know, to his coaching philosophy. Win or lose, it’s a great game when we don’t have to go to the emergency room afterward; play as aggressively as our bodies allow, which, for some, that’s less aggressively than others; and catch with two hands. I admit a few of the Mad Batters are having some trouble with that,” Chinn said.
The speech took a more serious turn when Chinn shared the accomplishments of both Houston and his staff.
“During Colonel Houston’s tenure, DENTAC seamlessly transitioned the Foreign-Security Forces Transition Team, a 1,000-man unit from Fort Riley, to 96 percent dental readiness without any additional dental assets. DENTAC decreased failed appointments to less than five percent for the first time ever. You know in most dentist offices, you’ll wait a month and a half for an appointment and then have the dentist tell you, ‘I wish you’d come to me sooner.’ But not here at Fort Polk,” Chinn said.
“DENTAC also adopted a new system of supply accountability, saving more than $10,000 the first year,” Chinn said.
“From visiting schools and teaching our children how important it is to care for their teeth, to offering financial classes and tennis instruction, Colonel Houston is a tenacious advocate of knowledge and education,” Chinn said. “Though the Army Family is large in numbers, it’s also a tightly-knit community where there are no real goodbyes. So today, Jamie and Emine, ‘until we meet again.’”
Chinn provided a warm welcome to Smith and his spouse, Kitty. “It’s with pleasure that we welcome home Colonel David Smith. Colonel Smith is already well aware that we live in a community where the well being of our Soldiers and Families is number one,” Chinn said. “Colonel Smith, welcome home. You already know that Fort Polk is the best hometown in the Army. I don’t have to tell you what a great command you’re coming into, and I have no doubt that DENTAC " where every Soldier is a professional " will continue its high level of excellence for the Soldiers and Families of Fort Polk.”
Houston approached the podium to share his thoughts of his staff and his experiences at Fort Polk.
“It has been a great honor to serve the Fort Polk community for the past three years. In between 12,000 deployments, my magnificent staff completed 27,000 Soldier readiness processings and 7,000 reverse SRPs. In the midst of simultaneous clinic renovations, this great staff is ranked either first or second in regional productivity for five out of six months,” he said.
“Teamwork and care for our Soldiers and teammates has most impressed me about this unit,” Houston said.
“I am grateful to Brigadier General Chinn, who let DENTAC call its own shots " pun intended. His passion for teamwork resulted in the softball dream team of sorts. But we gave the meaning to that dream team, taking power naps between innings and dreaming of how good we used to be. But a 16 and 2 record looks pretty good in any league,” Houston said.
Houston said a fond farewell to his staff and those in attendance. “Remember, a farewell is necessary before we can meet again. I look forward to that meeting. With the many simple things that so many have given to me during my command, I’m eternally grateful and appreciative,” he said.
Smith expressed his confidence in his new staff and willingness to continue the strength of DENTAC.
“Dental care providers that work in the treatment under my command will continue to provide care confidently and empathetically. Our dental clinic will continue to be a place where wellness is about Soldiers caring for Soldiers. I’m genuinely looking forward to the next few years of working with all of you. I’m proud to be, once again, joining the Fort Polk team,” Smith said.