GEORGETOWN, Guyana — The third and final rotation of dentists and dental technicians for New Horizons Guyana 2009 arrived in August and began seeing patients at the Diamond Secondary School.
Of the 18 Airmen on this two-week rotation, 14 are from Hill Air Force Base; two are from Luke Air Force Base, Ariz.; one is from Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas; and one is from Vance Air Force Base, Okla.
After their second day of providing dental care, these dental Airmen had already helped more than 120 people. If they kept that pace, they would be able to see roughly 600 patients before they head back home.
While seeing as many patients as possible is the goal, Lt. Col. (Dr.) Angela Montellano, 75th Dental Squadron commander and the dental commander of this rotation, said that is not the most important thing she is concerned about.
"My goal is not to be focused on how many patients or procedures we do, but to have a good time while providing quality care," she said. "I don't want my team to work themselves too hard and not enjoy what they are doing down here."
Montellano added that she thinks this humanitarian mission has done a lot of good for the people of Guyana and her Airmen are all working hard and will continue to work hard until the day they leave.
This is the first humanitarian mission for most of the Airmen on this rotation and they were all excited to volunteer for the opportunity.
Montellano said the Air Force Dental Corps put out a request looking for two-week volunteers for this exercise back in January. After talking with her dentists, dental technicians and dental laboratory technicians she found out they all wanted to go.
After discussing it with her chain of command, Montellano was able to work out the required manning that would stay at Hill AFB and still be able to accomplish the mission there, while most of the dental squadron deployed in support of New Horizons Guyana.
"This was a unique situation for us because most of the other dental volunteers came from larger bases with more personnel," she said. "So we are happy we were able to work it out and come down here to assist these people."
These dental Airmen have already noticed how appreciative the Guyanese people are for what they are doing.
"There are a lot of people here that need the help we are providing," said Capt. (Dr.) Joshua Hiller, 75th DS dentist. "There are people that get in line outside the gate here at six or seven at night and they will sleep in line until the next morning just to be seen. And they are so very grateful for what we are doing for them."
Hiller said he is very happy to provide assistance to those in need and is thankful his unit was able to participate.
While helping those less fortunate is a major part of this humanitarian mission, it also offers some vital, real-world training to those that are participating.
While here the dentists and dental technicians will see roughly 70 patients a day. Such a high operation tempo creates situations not usually simulated during regular training.
"This is such a different environment to what we are used to stateside," said Capt. (Dr.) Brent Milne, 75th DS dentist. "One of the biggest things this allows us to do is to use and test our mobile equipment in real situations. This allows us to see exactly what the equipment is capable of and what its limitations are."
Milne added that training exercises like this allow for a great team building experience with all of those involved.
These Airmen were hoping to leave a lasting impression with those they assist before their last day of dental care near the end of August.