By Ms. Ashley Patoka (Regional Health Command Europe)
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany — As part of the medical force charged with ensuring Soldiers are ready for their mission, Capt. Michael Mooney strives to ensure his patients maintain a healthy smile.
Mooney, a comprehensive dentist at the Grafenwoehr Dental Clinic, started his Army career as an enlisted Soldier. It was after a bad dental experience, that he decided he wanted to make sure other Soldiers didn’t have the same experience.
“I had a terrible dental experience,” he said, “a really bad injection, while getting a filling. From that moment on I thought that Soldiers deserve the best — so I make it my goal every day to always give the best treatment possible to every Soldier.”
As a comprehensive dentist, Mooney describes himself as a “jack of all trades.”
“I am able to do oral surgery, oral sedation, implants and treat pediatric patients,” he said. “So that means I can be deployed to remote locations as the sole dentist and I can treat almost any dental problem that gets thrown my way.”
In addition to being able to treat dental issues, Mooney also recently earned the Expert Field Medical Badge. The EFMB is awarded to only the most qualified field medical personnel who demonstrate exceptional competence and outstanding performance through medical proficiency, warrior skills and physical ability.
“EFMB was something I wanted to do because it is great training and great skills to have,” Mooney said. “It is something that I can pass on to my unit. As a dentist, I have deployed and I will deploy again, so these are life-saving skills I definitely need down range.”
Mooney’s recent EFMB testing was his first time trying for the badge. And even though he ended up being distinguished honor graduate, having successfully completed 42 out of 43 tasks, he said he is glad he doesn’t have to try again.
“It is an honor to be able to earn the EFMB and wear it on my uniform,” he said. “I am glad I passed it the first time — I definitely did not want to go back out there and do night land navigation again.”
And while Mooney now has additional skills he will be able to utilize in the future, right now his goal is to help ensure Soldiers are medically ready to deploy worldwide.
“With dental readiness, we work pretty closely with our medical counterparts here,” Mooney said. “The main thing is that we don’t want you to have any issues. We definitely don’t want you to have a toothache when you’re down range or in a fire-fight.”
Mooney said that when it comes to dental readiness, he is really looking at a Soldier’s readiness for the next 12 months.
“So what I do for my patients is to try to get them as dental ready as possible,” he said. “The main thing is that we don’t want any pain or any issues to come up in the next 12 months — so we want them to get their care done as quickly and as soon as possible.
For Mooney, joining the Army was a natural choice as most of his family have served in the military. He too wanted to serve “something with a higher purpose” than himself.
“Every day with my patients, my goal is to give them the best treatment I can, and have the least painful injections that they can possibly have,” Mooney said. “Anytime I have a patient tell me that they barely felt the injection it always makes me feel great and makes me want to come back the next day and do even better.”