7/2/2013 -- CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - A dental team with 1st Dental Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, worked alongside counterparts from the Air Force and a non-government organization known as East Meets West, to provide humanitarian aid to the people of Quang Binh province, Vietnam, during Operation Pacific Angel 2013, June 9-15.
The Pacific Angel detachment from 1st Marine Expeditionary Force was comprised of dental, medical and optometry teams, which together treated 4,056 patients.
“The dental team saw 747 patients and performed a total of 2,912 procedures over six days,” said Navy Lt. Thomas V. Brislin, dentist and officer-in-charge with the detachment from 1st Dental Bn. “The ability to go in and help a large number of people and relieve them of a pain they’ve had for years is very rewarding.”
Brislin, a native of Philadelphia, was joined by two dental technicians from 1st Dental Bn., and two Marines with 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st MLG, who transformed local schools into makeshift dental offices.
Pacific Angel provided humanitarian civic assistance to areas in need in the Pacific region and developed the host nation’s doctors’ and dentists’ capabilities for continued treatment.
“These humanitarian missions are a precursor for further diplomatic relations between the two countries,” said Brislin.
The team worked hand-in-hand with the NGO in overcoming challenges in regard to facilities, equipment and verbal communication with the Vietnamese locals, said Brislin.
“The interpreters helped me talk to the locals and showed us the difference in the techniques and lifestyle of the (NGO) dental technicians,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Lam D. Nguyen, a dental technician and administrative lead petty officer with 1st Dental Bn., and native of Orange County, Calif. “It was a learning experience for both groups.”
The dental team focused on building the foundation for long-term dental care by providing full treatments to the children and educating them about the necessity of dental hygiene.
“Most adults got one treatment, extraction or filling, but every child was given a fluoride treatment, dental hygiene items, educational materials and also had fillings and extractions done when needed,” said Brislin. “There was a great focus in trying to improve the long-term dental health of the youth.”
For 1st Dental Bn., Pacific Angel was important on a personal level.
“I’m a father of two, so being able to help all these children was definitely emotional for me,” said Brislin. “I think it was a valuable exercise, and I would encourage 1st Dental Battalion, the Marines and Navy in general to continue supporting these missions.”