Dentists Go To War

A local National Guard unit, the 109th Medical Battalion, has been activated and sent to war. The unit’s website proudly proclaims it provides “eschelon [sic] I and II medical support,” and makes it seem like these guys are pulling dying soldiers from foxholes on the front lines. But as usual with military people, it’s all a big self-aggrandizing lie.

The US Military Field Manual clearly states that Area Support Medical Battalions only provide Echelon II support. This means that in the midst of battle, they sit around the well-fortified base waiting for casualties to arrive. While these units take care of critical casualties, the major ongoing duty of any ASMB is minor medical and dental care for the troops. The 109th is largely composed of dentists, since the local Dental College is considered the best in the world. Napoleon said that an army travels on its stomach, but apparently modern armies travel on their toothbrushes. I appreciate the urgent need for medical care for the soldiers, but somehow I doubt any soldier is going to be struck down in the midst of battle by tooth decay.

Across the USA, whole battalions of dentists, doctors, and nurses are being uprooted from their local jobs and being sent to Iraq. The local hospitals report losing a substantial number of people to military duty, and some vital medical services are now curtailed, particularly at Veterans Administration hospitals. This is essentially a tax on local communities. As more reserve troops are deployed, cities are discovering their citizens are disappearing, no longer producing goods or services, or spending their income, or generating tax revenue.

The irony of this is that the 109th has historically been full of Conscientious Objectors and draft dodgers. During the Vietnam War, many local residents signed up as National Guard reservists with the 109th, in an attempt to avoid the callup. COs were typically assigned to non-battlefield medical units. Even if the 109th had been sent to VietNam (it was not), it was an “HHD,” a Headquarters Detatched unit, it would not go into the field. And certainly you wouldn’t want COs and draft dodgers in frontline units, you’d want them close to HQ where you can keep an eye on these misfits and malcontents.

5 thoughts on “Dentists Go To War”

  1. one of my friends in the 109th just got sent away, yet he, nor any of his friends(that i know about) in the 109th, are dentists. now these people who signed up obviously knew that it wasn’t an infantry unit, but who really cares. at least they are out there serving their country. i think thats somewhat admirable. also due to the fact that its a med bat, and im in pharmacy school, i always take a look at what the kids learning about. i remember one time, he had a manual on nitrogen mustards, nerve gas, and other biological weapons. there wasn’t too much in the manual about incisors though

  2. Excuse me for a little hyperbole. Yes, the vast majority of the 109th is support troops for the doctors and dentists. Obviously for every doc there’s a dozen grunts. It’s fairly standard to have a dental group with a med unit, they talk about it on their web page. I don’t mean to denigrate their contribution, I just don’t think they should be sucked out of the US healthcare system to go to Iraq. These guys were actively giving health care here in the US, and now they’ll be sitting around a Kuwaiti base waiting for casualties in a war that shouldn’t happen.

  3. I am sorry to hear that you are displeased by the National Guard or the 109th’s presence in theater. I am a dental assistant with Co B 109th ASMB; I also work as a medic. For your information, medics from our Bns do go to the front lines. Let’s not forget the medical company that came under fire where a “MEDIC” was taken hostage. Why? Because they were moving foward. NG soldier medics put their lives on the line just like active duty medics, and are proud to do so. As far as being in fortified buildings in the rear, tell that to the soldier medics that are getting fired at by Iraqis almost daily at bases throughout the theater. As far as having densists, check the history books. More duty time was lost during both World Wars, Vietman, and Desert Storm due to dental and foot problems than actually battle field injuries. Speaking from actually experience, there are many soldiers who are dental class III (meaning that they are at risk of losing field time due to severe dental problems, and/or should not be in theater). National Guard medical units are set up the same as active duty medical units. NG, especially Co B 109th, Dr’s, Dentists, PA’s, Nurses, and medics are just as if not more qualified than active duty medical teams. So to bad mouth the 109th, is to bad mouth your own active duty soldier medics/dentists and assistants. To address your comment about being taken away from our families and civilian careers; this is true, but we do this out of duty for our country and state. As for you, the miltary is your career and as a career soldier or what ever you are you should appreciate all elements of the armed forces.

  4. I am a PA with B Co. 109th ASMB and I provide care to over 5000 Iraqi Prisoners of war. Common criminals and former military personnel alike. I work with four to five medics and put in 24 hour days quite often to care for our area of operation. The base I support is 90% reserve and national guard. The soldiers here are primarily military policemen and military intelligence. The only active duty soldiers we have seen are a company sized element of the 82nd and small detachments of MI. I’ve been the senior medical provider for three mass casualty incidents in my AO in the past four months I’ve been at this particular location. That’s not a lot but I guarantee you its more than many. My medics and I are right in the middle of the Sunni triangle and essentially surrounded from all sides. Thus the warfighters have a very busy job keep the bad guys away from our very important guests. The contemporary battlefield does not have a well defined FEBA (forward edge battle area)or FLOT (froward line of troops). Therefore, I would like to defend the troops I work with. For all of you who want to believe, incorrectly, that you are well informed and think you know what the 109th is all about here is some accurate history. ASMB’s (Area Support Medical Battalion) are made up of FORWARD supporting medical companies who support fast moving COMBAT units and are designed to move quickly themselves. We use the same HUMVEEs and trucks as the active duty warfighters and we use large CANVAS tents to set up our 44 bed area support medical sites. Our primary mission was too take care of a portion of the 101st as they made their inital assualt on the Iraqi’s. As far as what level of care we give, it is the BEST. I personally am a level II trauma center emergency department Physician Assistant. Ask my active counter parts how many of them work in busy trauma centers??? We, just like the active duty ASMB’s, provide level I and II care. We move to the front line to pick up casualties (echelon I) the front doesn’t come to us (echelon II). For everyones information we don’t sit back and wait for the casualties to come to us. We are the second line and thus on the front line with the warfighter medics. We are not in kuwait we are spread all over Iraq. Mostly North, West, and right in the heart of Baghdad, right where all the action is. For those of you who feel we are sitting back in the safe confines of hard buildings under the protection of the active army, airforce, or anyone else please feel free to come and visit our comfortable little abode. We’d be happy to show you around. Just don’t forget you body armor and kevlar unless you like living on the wild side. You may want to up armor whatever vehicle you’ll be arriving in and tanks for escorts will help keep pesky Iraq insurgents from trying to disturb you as you enjoy the leizurely ride into Baghdad. P.S. cameras don’t scare them off so you might want to shoot something that produces a little bigger impact. Can you define what teh front line is and what a front line medic is? I’ve been enlisted, noncommissioned, and now commissioned. I’ve been a Light Infantry combat medic (active), an ambulance platoon squad leader, and a medical jump team leader. I hold the Expert Field Medical Badge, The highest test of a medic regardless of association as does Chris Forrest another responder and B Co. member. What exactly is the standard I am being compared to as a National guard soldier? As I mentioned before I’ve treated over 25 casualties from mortar attacks and evac’d 12 in less than 45 minutes during a single incident. My medics helped me do that not anyone else. I work and treat Fedhayeen, Al Qeda terrorist, and murderers who would rather kill me than accept care from me, and my medics fearlessly do the same and more for that matter. What exactly do I or they have to prove to you or anyone, who questions what we do or why we do it, about our level of experience or which unit we belong to. I was that active duty soldier once as many of my collegues here at the 109th were as well. We are former Infantry, Tankers, Scouts, Militray Police, Military Intelligence, Artillery, Aviators, and others. How much experience do you want? A large part of our unit has two and some three wars under their blets. How many combat patches do you have? If anyone has a problem with how we do our job I suggest you get your ass out of the chair your typing from and grab a weapon. Then come over here and show me how its done. I’ll be here doing my job at the FRONT. Guard 365 Active Duty 180 — OUT HERE

  5. Yeah right, you’re guarding 5000 iraqis, right in the middle of the combat zone in ARIZONA, where your message’s IP address originated. You’re so full of shit.
    I suggest you find a copy of US Army FM 4-02.6, you really should read it since it’s the field manual for YOUR unit. It defines Echelon 1 as medics deployed directly in combat units. There are no E1 medics in the 109th, they are E2 by the US Army definition. You’d have to be in a combat unit like the 101st Airborne to be E1, going on patrols as the squad medic. But you claim to be a member of the 109th, not the 101st, so you’re just E2. You’re full of the usual military puffery, you sat around the forward base in your tent and now you try to impress everyone at home by telling them you were pulling bleeding soldiers from foxholes. So, Major Burns, did you ever get that Purple Heart for the shell fragment in your eye? Or did Hawkeye squeal to Col. Potter that it was an eggshell and it happened when you were making breakfast?

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