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Far From Sea, Close To Home
by U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Bicchieri - August 10, 2015

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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)
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."

The 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.

"We've 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.”

Kevin De 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 patients.

"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."

He said 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 later.

By U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Bicchieri
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2015

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