Local Dentist and Navy Reservist, Captain Paul Bowersox of Westminster, MD is certainly a man who has “been there, and done that” over the course of his 27 years affiliated with the Navy. Recently he spent a portion of last summer participating in Operation Western Accord 2012 in the country of Senegal. This was the first evolution of the exercise and included over 1,200 service members from six countries.
As a member of the 4th Marine Logistics Group he served as the Officer in Charge (OIC) for the dental unit that performed field dentistry procedures such as exams, fillings, cleanings, and even a few extractions over their twenty day deployment. In addition to providing actual dental support to US service members, the deployment also provided an opportunity to hone other important skills. “Training the members of the team to set up, maintain, and breakdown a field clinic in a very austere environment was challenging.” said Captain Bowersox.
Although they were located in a rather remote area (about 2.5 hours by bus northwest of the city of Dakar), there were some opportunities to see the sights. While Dr. Bowersox took advantage of a one day safari trip to a 1,000 acre game preserve, others on his team opted to spend a day in the city of Dakar itself. Overall though, it was the dealings with the diverse population that he really enjoyed. “Interacting with the Marines is always a fun experience. Their esprit de corps for what they do has made the past 22 years in the reserves a wonderful experience, and meeting members of the Senegalese and other militaries is also rewarding.” he said.
While some may wonder how he manages to balance his civilian practice with his Navy Reserve commitments, Dr. Bowersox indicated that it really has not been that difficult. “I have several dentists that cover for me when I am away, just like most dentists do when they go on vacation or do continuing education courses” he explained. “My patients are very receptive to, and appreciative of, my military commitment. They are generally very eager to hear what part of the world I am off to.”
Professionally, service in the reserves offers unique working environments. For example, the Navy offers the opportunity to work with everything from the most state of the art equipment in military clinics, to the most basic of supplies during evolutions such as Western Accord. Dr. Bowersox believes this as a positive experience.
“Sometimes it takes a little time to get comfortable with your supplies, but the benefit is that you get to try, in a real clinical environment, materials and equipment you don’t often use. I have changed materials that I use in my office based on what I used in the Navy” he explained.
In the past 27 years, Dr. Bowersox has served on many platforms, from clinics, to ships, to serving on the ground with the Marines. He has visited over a dozen foreign locations and eight military installations here in the United States. “The opportunity to serve, very good continuing education opportunities, and fantastic friendships and memories” are some of the reasons Dr. Bowersox continues his service, adding, “The retirement benefits are very good too.”