PONCE, PUERTO RICO --
Military service carries the promise of exciting opportunities to expand your horizons and meet people and cultures you otherwise never would have known. At Innovative Readiness Training Puerto Rico 2019, U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Ryan Pyne experienced that firsthand.
Pyne, a hospital corpsman with 4th Dental Battalion, 4th Marine Logistics Group, Marine Forces Reserve, said he was ecstatic when he learned he was going to Puerto Rico to support IRT Puerto Rico 2019.
“Once I found out I was going to Puerto Rico, I just couldn’t wait for it to happen,” he said.
IRT Puerto Rico 2019, also known as Ola de Esperanza Sanadora, is one of many ongoing IRTs designed to provide hands-on training for Reserve service members, allowing them to stay sharp. At the same time, the exercise benefits the surrounding communities with no-cost health services. IRT Puerto Rico 2019 provided medical, dental, and optometry services to Puerto Ricans at six locations across the island from April 25-May 8, 2019.
Pyne served with the dental portion of the exercise. Some of his duties were familiar to him, such as cleanings and dental hygiene. Pyne also encountered new challenges and responsibilities as the non-commissioned officer in charge for the dental section at the Ponce, Puerto Rico site.
“I felt a little nervous, wondering if I could do it,” said Pyne. “But I’ve been serving for seven years now, so I felt like it was a good a chance as ever to be tasked with such a collaborative role.”
Despite his initial apprehension, Pyne rose to the occasion.
“I definitely grew a lot,” he said. “It helped me prioritize and be able to take charge.”
Pyne especially valued the opportunity to interact with the people of Puerto Rico and learn about their culture.
“I came here with an open mind, willing to embrace the culture,” said Pyne. “So far it’s been very gratifying getting to know the culture. I learned that they’re a very warm and welcoming people.”
Pyne estimated that the dental section has seen approximately 200 patients in their first four days of the IRT, with more to come before the treatment period ends on May 5. He added that both the service members and the community will benefit from the care provided.
For Pyne, there is a larger meaning to the mission.
“Missions like this are important because it lets the public know that the military is not all about warfare and defenses,” said Pyne. “We do give back to the community. We do things like the healthcare IRTs and construction IRTs for the communities. It’s important to know there is a different side to the military.”