By Tech. Sgt. Erica Picariello
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — The 21st Dental Squadron officially introduced its new building during a ribbon cutting ceremony here on Dec. 18, 2018.
Helping cut the ribbon was Brig. Gen. Sharon Bannister, deputy assistant director, education and training, Defense Health Agency.
“When I was looking at the mission of the 21st DS, I was blown away,” said Bannister. “You have 41 different units you’re supporting, at 22 different locations, in seven countries, covering 13 time zones… that really makes you one of our most diverse dental squadrons in the Air Force Medical Service, which should make you proud. It also adds significant mission complexity to tracking and ensuring all you serve are dentally ready.”
The new 16,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art LEED Gold- certified clinic contains 19 ambidextrous treatment rooms, all facing the mountains, as well as a central instrument processing center, a designated area to perform oral surgery, and laboratory space with in-lab computer-assisted design technology which allows staff to expedite the creation of dental prostheses.
“I think it’s important to understand where the Department of Defense is focused and how the 21st Space Wing has really embraced the charge,” Bannister said. “For example, Fort Carson doesn’t currently have dental laboratory personnel assigned — but they can meet their mission by leveraging our laboratory team at the 21st. It’s what we need to do in the future — yes, it’s important that we have Airmen, Soldiers and Sailors in uniform, but how can we leverage everyone’s expertise going forward? The 21st Dental Squadron doesn’t just support the Airmen at Peterson AFB, you support our tri-service team in Colorado Springs and across the nation. I feel it’s important for all to recognize the breadth of that support.”
Additionally, the building is heated and cooled by an energy-conserving geothermal well field consisting of 27 wells, each 400 feet deep. The water that circulates out of these wells maintains a constant 60 degrees, which can be used for both cooling and heating.
With a plethora of new equipment and upgrades, leadership reminded the ceremony attendees that the most critical component of the building wasn’t measured on a contract.
“But I must also mention the remarkable and most critical component of this new building… the part that truly makes it function as it should,” said Col. Christopher Vaughn, 21st Medical Group Commander. “It’s Airmen that work within its walls, delivering world-class dental capability. This noble work is how they prepare the Air Force’s greatest asset – medical maintenance of the human weapon system — to ensure service members are ready to serve our Nation’s calling, whether at home station or downrange. Dentists, dental technicians, administrative professionals, and other mission partners, working in a highly synchronized manner, to ensure this capability is delivered without fail. And although this facility is new, the degree of precision the 21st Dental Squadron operates with is simply standard practice… and it is exactly this standard, equipped with this modern infrastructure that makes this moment truly exceptional.”
The facility is expected to see 15,000 patients annually and is one of a 10-building medical campus geographically distributed across three military installations providing healthcare and mission-readiness support for more than 25,000 active duty, retired and family member Department of Defense beneficiaries of the 21st Space Wing, 50th Space Wing, and Colorado Springs community.