About 20 Soldiers and Family members from the 97th Civil Affairs Battalion volunteered their time and partnered with several hundred volunteers at Fayetteville’s Crown Coliseum, June 30, to provide free dental care to those in need.

The two-day event that began Friday drew more than a thousand Fayetteville residents, according to the Fayetteville Observer. This was Fayetteville’s first, free, mass dental clinic, sponsored by the Missions of Mercy, a volunteer organization of dental health providers affiliated with the North Carolina Dental Society.

“I learned about the program a few weeks ago and when I told my Soldiers, I got their immediate support,” said Lt. Col. Daniel Laseria, 97th CA Bn. commander. “This was a win-win situation, allowing our Soldiers an opportunity that was very similar to activities we conduct when deployed overseas, such as DENTCAPs (dental civil action programs). More importantly, it gave us a chance to give back to the Fayetteville community, especially those in need in an area where we live.”

Sgt. 1st Class Corey Montague, 97th CA Bn.’s senior medic, said that the volunteers were spread throughout the floor of Fayetteville’s major indoor sports arena, from greeting patients, directing patient flow, taking vital health measurements, as well as working with the providers administering dental care.

“I wasn’t expecting to get hands-on training,” Montague said. “I thought I’d be mostly sitting there, watching. But I was paired up with a dentist and dental technician and got right in there. Time went by very quickly. I was exposed to restorative dental care and extractions. It really helped my confidence in doing dental work when deployed.

“Everybody (the patients) there were very thankful for the services provided. They weren’t impatient and were pleased when they got treatment. All the volunteers never worked together before, but after a few patients, worked really well with each other,” Montague explained.

“I have people come into my office all the time and they can’t afford my work. To get the dental work done, they’re kind of in-between. They don’t have the income to get the dental work done, and they make too much to get Medicaid to pay for it. We’re trying to help people that fall through the cracks,” said Dr. Jerry Caudill, a Fayetteville dentist and president of the North Carolina Academy of General Dentistry.

“It was wonderful, just fantastic!” said Vickie Champion, the volunteer marketing coordinator for MoM, who said that in addition to more than 750 volunteers at the coliseum, dozens of other businesses and other organizations contributed medical and non-medical equipment, tables and chairs, food and other support essential to the success of the two-day event.

The battalion continues to look at venues which provide the platform to assist the local community and build enduring relationships throughout the area.