WRNMMC, Bethesda, MD –
Rear Adm. Rick Freedman, 39th Chief of the U.S. Navy Dental Corps, joined dentists and other staff celebrating the 109th birthday of the corps during a cake-cutting ceremony Aug. 19 at Naval Support Activity Bethesda (NSAB).
NSAB serves as home to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC), Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command (NMRTC) Bethesda, Naval Medical Leader and Professional Development Command (NML&PDC), and the Naval Postgraduate Dental School (NPDS).
On Aug. 22, 1912, the U.S. Congress passed an act, later signed by U.S. President Howard Taft, establishing the U.S. Navy Dental Corps. The corps now includes naval officers who have earned a doctor of dental surgery (DDS) or doctor of dental medicine (DMD) degree and practice dentistry to ensure service members are ready to deploy globally with optimal oral health. Navy Dental Corps members also assure all beneficiaries of the Military Health System (MHS) receive safe, quality oral care.
“Over the years, there have been countless service members in both the officer and enlisted ranks who have made incredible contributions to the U.S. Navy Dental Corps and helped it evolve into what it is today,” said Navy Capt. Mark Stokes, NPDS dean. “Many of these service members have come through the NPDS or WRNMMC, either as corpsmen, staff, or residents,” he added.
“While the organizational construct has changed through the years, our joint command mission of readiness, health, [and] education, has remained laser focused,” Stokes furthered. “We continue to stay on the cutting edge of research and technologies that are reshaping the industry, while we develop tomorrow’s leaders by training operationally-oriented dental specialists to meet fleet requirements in support of mission readiness and warfare lethality.”
“I’ve never been more proud to be a member of the U.S. Navy Dental Corps, let alone chief,” Freedman said. “In the face of a global pandemic that the world has never seen in which there has been fear, uncertainty and trepidation, the Dental Corps team [made] our patients, their health, safety and well-being paramount,” he explained.
“We have that sacred oath, so every day, we suit up in our armor [in the] face of unknown danger [to provide oral care]. That is unbelievable bravery and a focus on mission accomplishment,” Freedman said.
The ability of the nation to project naval power depend on the U.S. Navy Dental Corps and how the NML&PDC and NPDS accomplish their mission, Freedman added. Service members are not deployable if they do not meet oral health standards and receive regular dental care.
“The ability to project naval power rest on you. [The nation] is able to force project from the position you provide it medically. Our combatant commanders are able to do their mission because you extend the distributed maritime operation. We would not be able to do our job as the Navy and nation without the skills you bring forward. Thank you,” Freeman said to the U.S. Dental Corps team.