It was a chilly October morning. The roads were washboard rough. A-10 Warthogs flew overhead in forward air control. Hueys were in the back, bringing troops and supplies forward. CF-18s were screaming by at low altitude, startling all of us, enormously loud and scary. You could hear the bombs and gunfire in the near distance.
We maneuvered our mobile dental clinics in the six-wheel-drive trucks towing 10 kW generators as close to the front lines as we were allowed. Arriving at our designated spot, the ground was uneven. We quickly dug a trench and backed the truck into it, and used the hydraulic lifts to finish leveling out the operatory. Firing up the generator, we had the clinic up and running in minutes.
At first, we saw trauma. My general practitioner training and knowledge were put to full use. As things quieted down, we did more routine dentistry including endo, perio, and restorative dentistry. Welcome to Operation Rendezvous 1989.
The mobile dental clinics operated by the Canadian Armed Forces were modern, fully equipped, functional dental operatories capable of completing comprehensive dentistry in a mobile field setting. As the commander of the dental field unit for the Allied Command Europe (ACE) Mobile Force, I had the opportunity to mix with colleagues from many of our allies, and our clinics were the envy of them all.
My family is about to undertake some renovations to our basement and in cleaning up some old files, my daughter, Isabel, found the certificate of appreciation I received for participating in Operation Rendezvous from our government. This was something she was surprised to see and very proud to have learned about. This was the first of three field operation exercises I participated in. The second was in Northern British Columbia in January 1990 and the final was in North Norway (Bardufoss, near Tromso) in February 1990. It was the highlight of my service to our country prior to my release at the end of my contract, where I settled in Calgary, Alberta.
The Royal Canadian Dental Corps, formerly called the Canadian Forces Dental Services, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year (www.cda-adc.ca/en/about/forces/). It was founded to support the Field Ambulance in the First World War and was so successful the British copied the Canadian model.
At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, we remember those who gave their lives for our freedom on Remembrance Day in Canada (Veterans Day in the U.S.).
I don’t talk much about my time in service of my country to my children. It was a big part of my past but not my present. But I am proud of that service and I find it humbling and satisfying that my daughters feel pride in my service as well. As a result, they accompany my wife and me to Remembrance Day ceremonies each year without complaint. And I am finding a growing number of young people doing the same thing…remembering and participating in remembrance.
And that is a good thing. By remembering we may be able to avoid the tragedy of the past.
Larry Stanleigh, BSc, MSc, DDS, FADI, FICD, FACD