When it comes to readiness in Korea, Osan Dental Clinic #1

by Senior Airman Kristin High
51st Fighter Wing

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- The 51st Dental Squadron was recognized for having the number one readiness rating in the Air Force at 99.7 percent for the second quarter.

The rating is given by Air Force Medical Operations Agency who oversees execution of the Air Force Surgeon General policies supporting expeditionary capabilities, healthcare operations, and national security strategy.

The clinic here, consisting of 45 active-duty service members and five civilians, takes care of more than 7,000 Team Osan service members, command sponsored dependents, AAFES workers, Department of Defense contractors and retirees on space-available cases.

"Our mission here is dedicated to the readiness," said Tech. Sgt. Kyle Watkins, 51st DS NCO in-charge of records and reception. "The enemy is located less than 50 miles away and we have to be fit and ready to fight day in and day out."

Their services include everything from prosthodontics, periodontics, preventative and operative dentistry, endodontics and some oral surgery.

"We have to ensure service members are able and ready to fight tonight at a moment's notice," said Watkins. "Dental plays a big part in overall medical readiness."

Staff Sgt. Lonnie Perrin, 51st DS technician, monitors the Air Force Dental Readiness Assurance Program. The program tracks and facilitates all annual exams for service members stationed here.

"When you get your exam, that's the start of your dental readiness," said Perrin. "That's when you find out if there are any treatment needs or procedures we may need to do to make sure you're dental class one."

Dental class one means patients not requiring dental treatment or reevaluation within 12 months.

The readiness rating was comprised from active duty members and their dental health, including those who are on temporary duty, leave or overdue to ensure their medical needs are kept up-to-date.

"I believe we earned the readiness rating, not only from dental, but help from each unit's health monitors," said Perrin. "The 36 UHMs we have here help me keep a closer eye in their squadrons for Airmen who may need dental care."

The 99.7 percent readiness rating surpassed more than 70 other clinics worldwide.

"The sizes and structures of clinics vary throughout the Air Force, some being three-times our size," said Watkins. "The cohesiveness and comradery in this particular unit is the best I've seen in more than 18 years. Everyone goes above and beyond to ensure we get the job done.

"This is a very unique assignment here, being more like a forward deployment instead of a homestead base," said Watkins. "Even being away from our normal lives and families, this clinic is the true example of teamwork."

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