Open wide and say "ahh"

8 May 2007 | Sgt. Brian J. Griffin

Marines sit in the 'waiting room,' an austere passageway decorated with a single wooden bench. In the room just off to their left, the distinctive sound of a dentist?s drill cuts through the air as a muffled voice can be heard every few minutes asking for a dental pick or suction.Three Sailors-- the dental department of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) -- work here, doing the dental work needed by the 1,300 MEU Marines and Sailors aboard this amphibious assault ship.?We do pretty much all of the specialties in operative dentistry, from fillings and root canals to oral surgery,? said Lt. Mau Nguyen, dental officer, MEU Service Support Group 11, 11th MEU (SOC). ?Basically it?s a continuation of treatment that is provided back in garrison-- everything except crowns and bridges.? Working in quiet rooms buried in the belly of the ship, these dental warriors work day in and day out ensuring all MEU personnel receive quality care and stay up to deployable standards.?Part of being physically fit is being dentally fit,? Nguyen said. ?If a Marine is out in the field and they have a dental problem, they might not be able to shoot straight... or function at 100%. It?s happened where people have had to be medevac?d from the field. We?re here to prevent that from happening, to catch the problem before it becomes a problem.?The ?dental docs? of the 11th MEU catch potential problems by scheduling regular checkups for personnel under their command.?Right now we have a lot of appointments for Marines to get their annual exams,? said DT1 Kristopher Horn, dental technician, MSSG-11, 11th MEU (SOC). ?We want them to stay current and at a deployable status, which is class one or two?the highest dental ratings. It?s important for them to have that rating because if they go to the field, their chances of having a dental emergency drop significantly.?Marines need to have the class one or two rating not only for their own well-being but for their unit?s deployable status as well.?To be deployable the unit itself has to be at 95% or above,? Horn said. ?But we shoot for as high as possible here.?In order to maintain such high standards for the deployable status, the dental department see more than 175 people a month.?We usually see about 40-50 people a week,? Horn said. ?But that?s an average, sometimes more, sometimes less. Today alone we saw 25 people. It just depends on what we?re doing.?The ?dental docs? see their job of providing the 11th MEU (SOC) Marines with dental care as a essential service.?There?s a motto we have. ?Being entrusted with the dental care of Marines and Sailors is a privilege,?? Nguyen said. ?The best we can do is give our best to the Marines and Sailors who are deployed with us.?Lieutenant Nguyen enjoys providing professional care to service members on deployment in addition to traveling around the world.?It?s great being able to travel around with the MEU, providing dental services out in the field, going out and setting up a dental operatory from scratch,? Nguyen said. ?This is fun. That?s the bottom line, it?s fun.?

Marine Corps News

Colonel Jim W. Lively
Commanding Officer

Colonel Lively is a native of Dallas, Texas. He received his commission in 1996 through the Platoon Leaders Course program after graduating from Texas A&M University with a BA in Psychology.

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Lieutenant Col. Le E. Nolan
Executive Officer

Lieutenant Colonel Nolan is a 2001 graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology and received his commission through Officer Candidate Class 180. After completing flight training as a CH-53E pilot, he reported to HMH-361 in MCAS Miramar.

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Sergeant Major Travis L. DeBarr
Sergeant Major

Sergeant Major DeBarrĀ enlisted in the Marine Corps and reported to MCRD San Diego, CA, for recruit training in October 1994.

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11th Marine Expeditionary Unit