More than 8,000 people in Alabama received free dental treatment from total and joint forces April 29 through May 12 as part of â€œOperation Alabama Black Belt 2012.â€
Master Sgt. Lee Walton, 56th Dental Squadron flight chief of clinical dentistry, was one of the many who helped make this humanitarian mission possible.
â€œAlabama Black Belt 2012 is an opportunity to increase the quality of life of fellow Americans,â€ Walton said. â€œIt also challenges our deployment skills and operational readiness.â€
The ABB task force was comprised of Army Reserve, Air Force Reserve, Navy Reserve, National Guard and a few active-duty personnel, who provided medical, dental and civil engineering to the community.
Prior to the mission, Senior Master Sgt. Jodi Hildebrandt, 56th DS superintendent, wanted to get Thunderbolts from the 56th DS involved.
â€œI thought it would be outstanding if the 56th DS could support the mission in some way,â€ she said.
As a result, they put together a team of five Airmen.
â€œWalton was part of a five-man team that helped support the multi-service/interagency mission,â€ Hildebrandt said.
Waltonâ€™s role in the mission was to provide training to the dental technicians, along with one other Thunderbolt at the site in Demopolis, Ala., while the other three Airmen stayed at Selma, Ala.
According to Hildebrandt, the mission was twofold; they provided humanitarian and innovative readiness training.
The ABB mission not only benefited the medically underserved and economically depressed communities, it also helped military personnel conduct deployment and readiness training.
â€œAirmen from the 56th DS were able to use the skills and abilities the Air Force has given them to assist local communities,â€ Hildebrandt said. â€œThey also provided skills training to other participants from our sister services.â€
The communities werenâ€™t the only ones who gained from the mission.
â€œEveryone involved got something out of it, not just the people in need of healthcare,â€ Walton said. â€œI had the opportunity to provide humanitarian health services to the American people.â€
With the combined efforts of all the services involved, they met their goal.
â€œA total of 29,000 people were treated at the three sites,â€ he said. â€œOut of that number, 8,202 were dental patients, so we were extremely busy.â€
Walton remembers one person in particular who also helped others who were in need.
â€œHis name was Boston Collier, a local farmer; he helped a lot of poor people in town.â€ Walton said.
â€œEven though he was struggling, I thought it was great how he helped feed the locals with his crops.â€
For Hildebrandt, it wasnâ€™t just about providing dental care; it was also about touching the lives of others.
â€œI feel that the Airmen of the 56th DS reached out and touched the community in a positive and reassuring manner,â€ she said. â€œIt has helped the Airmen serve their fellow Americans and better themselves in their professional and technical abilities.â€