Air Force Capt. Vincent Chippone of Sacremento, Calif., and an Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) dentist, prepare a patient for dental treatment Sept. 11 in Kinshasa. Chippone a reservist with the 940th Aeromedical Dental Flight, Beale Air Force Base, Calif., is in the DRC as part of MEDFLAG 10 a joint training exercise with the U.S. and FARDC militaries focusing on humanitarian and civil assistance.
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. James D. Sims
Taking a vacation or going home for the holidays brings to mind a picture of having fun and spending time with family.
However, for family members of embassy staff, a trip back to Europe or the United States means finally having the opportunity to visit the dentist — at least until this week.
“It’s been about two years that I’ve been trying to get to the dentist,” said Kathryn Anne Crowder, a family member of an embassy worker in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo. “So this is a much needed visit.”
Crowder was one of about 35 patients seen by three Air Force Reserve dentists visiting the DRoC as part of MEDFLAG 10, an annual joint medical training exercise that allows U.S. military service members to work side by side with their African counterparts. In addition to training, the joint forces also provide humanitarian and civic assistance to local residents.
“Working with the local population has given us the feeling we are reaching those that really need it,” said Lt. Col. Jacqueline Garcia-Castellanos of Miami, a member of the 482nd Aeromedical Dental Squadron, based at Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla.
Both American and Congolese dental professionals spent several days in classroom training reviewing the necessity of basic oral hygiene and preventive care before providing assistance to Kinshasa residents.
Medical and dental staff will assess roughly 2,000 cases and provide the necessary care to Congolese citizens during a four-day period of the exercise.
“The experience has been quite enlightening,” said Garcia-Castellanos. “It has given us the opportunity to engage in active dental care side by side with the Congolese army dental corps, and the exchange has been excellent.”