KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea — Every member of the Wolf Pack has an important role in helping drive the Kunsan Air Base mission. F-16 Fighting Falcons are flown daily, aircrew flight equipment Airmen are responsible for fitting our pilots with the proper gear and maintainers are responsible for keeping our aircraft ready to stay in the fight. Something as simple, yet crippling, as an impacted tooth or a severe infection could impact theses Airman’s ability to do their job.
Luckily, a flight of “Med Hawks” from the 8th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron are equipped and ready to combat gingivitis, cavities, and other tooth related issues.
“We make sure the room is ready to go,” said Senior Airman Malik Veveiros, 8th OMRS dental technician. “We ensure the dentists have everything they need for their current procedure.”
The 8th Fighter Wing has more than 1,100 active-duty service members. With patients recommended to be seen at least once a year, the dental flight stays busy.
“Between the three doctors, we can each see anywhere from eight to 12 patients a day.” said Dr. (Capt.) Clifton Wright, 8th OMRS general dentist.
“Our flight can see upwards of 40 people a day for cleanings and exams.”
General dentists and dental technicians work together to ensure the proper procedures are followed and patients are well taken care of.
“It would be very difficult to handle procedures with just one person,” added Veveiros. “Working as a team keeps everyone accountable. It makes sure everything goes smoothly, you have two sets of eyes to make sure everything works out properly and make sure all the background work is getting done.”
Some Airmen do not get to choose their AFSC out of basic training and Veveiros was no different. He was selected for the job after joining as an open general applicant.
“I didn’t even know dental was a job in the Air Force,” said Veveiros. “Once you get into it, it becomes a job like everything else. Then, you start to find little quirks that you really enjoy about it.”
One of those quirks Veveiros recalled was when an Airman fell asleep during a procedure. He took it as a compliment knowing that he was proficient enough at his job to not cause any pain to his patient.
Wright had a different path to this career. His Air Force journey started on the enlisted side, working in a travel management office. He rose to the rank of Tech. Sgt. before he separated, went through ROTC, dental school and eventually commissioned as a general dentist.
“I love yeeting [pulling] teeth,” joked Wright. “I chose this job because the lifestyle is good. I love science, I like working with my hands and dentistry is a pretty good combination of both.”
Veveiros said that he enjoys seeing the patients satisfied with their work.
“When someone comes in, just full of build-up – getting that cleaned up and making the teeth look pearly white and good again,” said Veveiros.
“That’s my favorite part of my job.”
Each member that visits the dental flight is left with guidance on improving their oral health. Veveiros and Wright do not do it to sound like stern parents, but rather to provide small reminders that dental health is important to mission success.
“Most take our advice on brushing and flossing and do it half-heartedly and then come in yelling at us,” said Wright. “If you do the exact things, we tell you to do, you’ll be surprised at the results.”
Toothaches and infections can cause debilitating pain to an Airman, even limiting their ability to do their jobs. Thankfully, this flight of “Med Hawks” can provide quick care and help get them back into the fight.