DEXTER, Missouri - Miles from water, a lighthouse stands over a
church. The distance of the Dexter community from water makes the
lighthouse an unusual but welcome sight, much like the Sailors and
Soldiers who were invited by the community to provide vital medical
services to the people of the surrounding area.
The Army and
Navy units participating in Operation Bootheel served the
communities of the Missouri Delta Region and provided care from July
13-23, 2015. This Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) gave civil
affairs and medical units with the opportunity to practice their
skills in a real world environment while serving local communities
with medical, dental and vision care.
A HMMWV (Humvee) sits parked under the Lighthouse Church of Dexter, Mo., site of a free medical, dental and vision clinic supported by the 431st Civil Affairs Battalion, 7212 Medical Support Unit and Expeditionary Medical Facility Great Lakes. Operation Bootheel provided Soldiers and Sailors with Innovative Readiness Training while providing communities in the Missouri Delta Region with care from July 13-23, 2015. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Bicchieri)
Inside the church, the walls inside are painted with
coastal scenes of beaches and surf, which appeared to have a
calming effect on patients.
"This is the first
location I've seen that we haven't seen any aggravated
customers,” said Pfc. Rebekah Munday, a civil affair
specialist with the 431st Civil Affairs Battalion. “No one
argues or gets mad if we have to turn them away because
we've all the patients we can see for the day."
lighthouse is not the only thing that made this site unique.
Missions like Operation Bootheel are intended to provide
medical, dental, and vision care to communities in the
Missouri Delta Region, and the church has a full dental
clinic with nine chairs upstairs and another one which is
handicap accessible. When the community and Delta Regional
Authority offered this location for IRT, the military found
it uniquely suited to their requirements.
never had such a tremendous resource available to us before
for this kind of mission," said Lt. Col. Robert Snodgrass of
the 431st Civil Affairs Battalion. “Furthermore, it shows
the need the community has for the service.”
Arman is a veteran Marine, who staffs the regular monthly
dental clinic at the church. During Operation Bootheel, he
again served as a volunteer. He said the church provides
people in the community can receive professional dental care
at low cost through their "Smiles of Hope" program. Licensed
dentists from around the state come and volunteer once a
month, but the need is greater than what they can provide.
De Arman said the Navy and Army dentists have been able to
provide a wider array of dental procedures at no cost to the
"It's helped a lot of people,” De Arman
said. “Doing this again is important, as many people will
not get help otherwise.”
Lt. Tom Judd of
Expeditionary Medical Facility Great Lakes served as the
officer in charge of the Dexter clinic. He said the Army and
Navy personnel gelled right away.
"The whole site is
working really well,” Judd said. “We came together on the
first day like one service. From day one, we were one
dental, one medical and one optical section."
even though the staff were from units all over the region,
they all understood how their jobs support each other.
In addition to dental care, the IRT clinic provided the
community with medical and optical care, with free eye
glasses crafted by the Navy Ophthalmic Support and Training
Readiness Activity and delivered to patients just 24 hours
By U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Bicchieri
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