OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. –
Members from the 55th Dental Squadron participated in Operation Healthy Delta Innovative Readiness Training June 9-23, 2023, in Missouri and Illinois.
More than 270 service members from the Air Force, Space Force, Army and Air National Guard, Army and Air Force Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, Navy Reserve and the U.S Public Health Service collaborated to provide no-cost health services to underserved communities in Illinois and Missouri.
“It was not the typical population that I see in active duty; most Airmen are young, healthy, and fit,” said Capt. Bethanie Swanson, 55th Medical Group resident. “This was an opportunity to treat patients that who were medically compromised, and a lot of patients have not seen a dentist in a very long time.”
Even though Swanson was able to further develop her skills and gain more experience, she and her team encountered some challenges.
“I would have to be mindful of my patient population, my limited resources, my supplies that I currently had, and this was my first experience working in a medical health care environment that I did not have all the state-of-the art equipment, instruments that I would use on a daily basis, and you are relying on electricity that’s uncertain at times” Swanson said. “When we had procedures, my section and I had to come up with new ways to manage and treat our patients.”
Tech. Sgt. Omalee Vega, 55th Dental Squadron dental technician, participated in two previous IRTs, but that didn’t stop her from stepping up again.
“As soon as they asked me, I jumped on it,” Vega said. “I did not miss the opportunity, I love going.”
Vega said that she did not grow up with a lot of money, and this was an opportunity for her to give back to those experiencing similar situations.
“When you have people come into your chair and explain everything and you hear their story, you kind of see the human behind it versus just the situation,” Vega said. “I don’t know what bought you here or why you don’t have health care, but I’m here to help you and we are going to get through this together.”
Vega recommends all service members participate in the next IRT.
“I always tell my people to get out of their comfort zone and step out there,” Vega said. “There is no other time you’re going to be around people in dire need of help, they’re so appreciative. It is such a rewarding experience.”