A commemoration of oral health services to soldiers
The Army Dentistry Monument, dedicated by The Association of Army Dentistry, recognizes the valuable dental services offered to our military throughout the years.
Dr. Francis Nasser, Jr. discusses the important role of military dentists and a special way to recognize their contribution to the field
The Association of Army Dentistry (AAD) dedicated the Army Dentistry Monument on Friday, March 24, 2023, in a ceremony at the U.S. Army Medical Department (AMEDD) Museum in San Antonio, Texas. According to Dr Ronald Lambert (COL USA DC ret, Past President of the AAD), “The monument is a lasting tribute to all the soldiers, civilians, and spouses who have served and continue to serve in the Army Dental Care System in support of the U.S. Army and its military mission. The monument recognizes and honors the selfless contributions made by the diverse members of the Army Dental Care System and its key supporting components in the overall mission of Army Medicine.”
Founded in March 1911, the Army Dental Corps has a long and distinguished history of providing global dental services to soldiers and ensuring the readiness of the nation’s fighting forces. Even before 1911, the Army contracted dental surgeons to provide dental care to soldiers deployed to the new territories of a growing nation. The tradition of providing oral health services to soldiers wherever they are assigned continues to this day.
During World War II, more than 18,000 dentists served in uniform. It was during this time that the role of Army Dentistry expanded to include not only all levels of dental services, but also non-dental support and leadership. In the battle of Saipan in the Pacific, a Dental Corps Officer, Captain Ben Salomon, took command of the battalion aid station on the island. During an ensuing and desperate attack by enemy forces, CPT Salomon, also a skilled infantry soldier, heroically fought and defended the battalion aid station. He lost his life in the battle, but his gallantry and sacrifice did not go unrecorded. He was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously, the only Army dentist to ever receive the nation’s highest military award. The image of Dr. Ben Salomon was used in the design of the dental officer sculptured in the monument.
Army Dentistry was firmly established as a permanent and essential element in preserving the readiness and fitness of the fighting force. During the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam, Army Dentistry continued to provide direct support to soldiers in the field of operations.
The Persian Gulf War brought the largest expansion of Reserve Dental Support in Army Dentistry. Over 220 reserve dental officers and 320 reserve enlisted soldiers were called up to support the mission. Overall, 121 dental officers served in the theater. The expanded use of reserve forces continued throughout the later conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Today the Army Dental Care System is a highly trained and integrated team of military officers, non-commissioned officers (NCO), enlisted soldiers, and government service (GS) civilians. The Army Dental Corps has 970 dentists in uniform and is augmented with 455 GS and contracted civilian dentists. There are 1,225 NCOs and enlisted soldiers and 2,300 civilians providing clinical and administrative support. All services and specialties of the dental profession are provided to the nation’s service members. In addition, Army Dentistry is a leader in the postgraduate education and specialty training of young dentists, and the advanced training of enlisted soldiers and civilians. The mission of the Army requires that Army Dentistry be prepared to support soldiers wherever they are deployed. Colonel Tom Goksel, DDS, MD, says, “The Army Dental Corps is the leader in expeditionary dentistry and sustainment of force readiness … the mission is to have a ready Dental Corps capable of delivering global dental services in order to sustain the readiness of the total military force.”
The Association of Army Dentistry is proud to keep the legacy of the Army Dental Corps alive and preserve its rich history, in order to inspire those who choose to serve and support the nation’s military men and women. The Army Dentistry Monument Dedication commemorates this unique contribution to the U.S. Army and the nation.
Dr. Francis Nasser, Jr. is a retired Colonel in the U.S. Army Dental Corps and a current member of the Association of Army Dentistry Board of Directors.