Military feature: Cannon airmen part of humanitarian deployment to Africa

Liliana Castillo

Capt. Ben Britten and Staff Sgt. Marc Bustria, both of the 27th Special Operations Aerospace Medicine Squadron and Cannon Air Force Base recently returned from a humanitarian deployment to Africa. During their trip, the dentist and dental technician team, respectively, completed an Army team that provided free health services to hundreds of Africans over a month’s time.

Britten and Bustria, part of an 11-man team, performed a medical capability exercise.

The team spent two weeks in Mauritania and two weeks in Burkina Faso. There Britten and Bustria went to a local village and relieved dental pain.

“Ninety-nine percent of what we did was taking out teeth,” Britten said.

Britten said the population he interacted with were lacking in dental hygiene.

“Mainly because of a lack of instruction,” he said. “There aren’t a lot of local dentists there.”

Also, the impoverished population consume a high sugar diet and don’t have the money to pay for services when offered.

During their time in Mauritania, Britten said they removed 206 teeth.

In Burkina, the team met with another team from Hurlburt Field from Florida. Britten said the team worked with three local dentists in Burkina.

For both airmen, it was their first humanitarian trip.

“It was totally different from what you see of Africa on TV,” Bustria said. “Once you’re in there, you see the full view.”

Britten said the area is impoverished.

“It was hard seeing it and the lack of things we take for granted here,” he said.

Both said the people they helped were appreciative of their work.

“I enjoyed it. We were making a lasting difference because we were relieving them of pain, helping improve life for them,” Britten said.

Bustria said he enjoyed helping.

“It gave me a good feeling. When helping out people, you get that feeling ‘I did a good thing.’”

The team distributed supplies such as toothbrushes, toothpaste and suggested reducing the sugar in their diet.

Both said the trip will hopefully become an annual trip. And both said they would go back again.