FSSG Sailors win top dental honors

25 Sep 2003 | Lance Cpl. John E. Lawson Jr.

Two sailors from 2nd Dental Battalion, 2nd Force Service Support Group here, were recognized by the Marine Corps Association for their significant contribution to Fleet Marine Force operational readiness at Building 2, Sept.12.

Petty Officer Third Class John C. Furr, dental technician, currently serving as administrations clerk, 2nd Dental Battalion Headquarters, from Belmont, N.C., received the Thomas A. Christiansen Memorial Award. Commander William R. Davidson, director of the Marine Corps Air Station New River branch dental clinic and oral surgery department head, from Little Field, Texas, received the Weedon E. Osborne Memorial Award.

Both awards are presented annually to dental sailors serving to promote the operational readiness of Marine units.

Every year each of the three dental battalions that serve the Marine Corps submit nominations for their best officer and enlisted candidate to Headquarters Marine Corps, Washington, D.C.  Then there is a board to select the "best of the best," said Navy Capt. William G. Reynolds, dental officer of the Marine Corps, Health Services, Headquarters Marine Corps.

"The board recommends the names to the medical officer of the Marine Corps and the Commandant of the Marine Corps," he said.

The Marine Corps Association provides the awards and citations for the recipients.

"They're the highest recognitions the Marine Corps Association gives in Naval dentistry," said Navy Capt. Stephen J. Connelly, commanding officer, 2nd Dental Battalion and Naval Dental Center here.

"These awards recognize the excellence of the people in this battalion is extraordinary," he said. "This is the second year in a row both awards have gone to members of this battalion."

"It shows we have people who go out and get the mission done," he said.

Davidson, who has been in the Navy for nearly 13 years, received the officer's award.

"I am so honored to be recognized by the Marine Corps Association and my peers for making a significant contribution to the fleet Marine force," said Davidson.

Having spent the past 12 years of his Navy career with fleet Marine force units, he said "It's all I know; I have a special respect for the Marines."

Davidson, who did his undergraduate work at Austin, Texas, and did his dental work at Baylor College of Dentistry in Dallas, was nominated for the award for his work with the Combined Medical Dental Detachment in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"The detachment had really sharp doctors and incredible hospital men and corpsmen," he said. "They got the job done."

"There is no one thing I did to set myself apart from the other candidates," he said. "You just do everything within your power to do the best you can for the Marines. The patients are always the priority."

Serving as a triage officer, Davidson slept outside the emergency room tent, remaining on duty 24 hours a day. "It's something I felt I needed to do."

"He was instrumental in the battalion getting out there in a timely manor with the right equipment," Connelly said. "He got us deployed."

Davidson was the first Naval dental officer in Iraq and personally triaged 267 wounded Marines throughout his tour in there.

"Commander Davidson did extraordinary work as a triage officer for one of the Navy's new forward resuscitative surgical centers," Connelly said.

"The support we received from the command here and the city of Jacksonville, N.C., was phenomenal and really helped us get through everything," Davidson added.  "It is an honor to be part of the Navy and Marine Corps team."

The 39-year-old is currently engaged and is planning a 2004 wedding.

Furr, with eight years in the Navy, received the enlisted award.

"I know a lot of stellar sailors were up for the award, and I was proud to be picked with that group of people," said Furr.

Having spent his entire career on "the green side" working with Marines in Okinawa, Japan, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., and Camp Lejeune, N.C., Furr said he has "huge respect for Marines."

Furr was nominated for his actions during Operation Iraqi Freedom. For part of his tour, he served as an ambulance driver with B Surgical Company.

"It's usually Marine drivers, but the Marines were pulled to drive supplies forward, so medical was losing its drivers," he said. So he volunteered.

The South Point High School graduate said he drove in a lot of convoys through An Nasiriyah, Iraq, a city known for its heavy resistance during the operation.

He said the cross training he received in field medical, the same Connelly said all dental sailors receive, proved extremely useful in theater.

"The training we received beforehand and in country brought us up to speed and proved to be very valuable," Furr added.

"With Marine war fighting we get to use skills we don't usually use. Those skills are used with triage and patient evacuation."

Those skills and his devotion to duty are what make Furr a noticeable sailor.

"Furr is one of the most dedicated and capable third class petty officers I have ever had the privilege to work with. He is motivated and a first-class sailor," Connelly said. His actions kept him working around the clock to save "quite a few" troops. And he volunteered for it.

"His performance in theater made him a leadership example to his fellow sailors," Connelly added.

Furr said his main concern was always his patients, both military and Iraqi civilian.

According to his award nomination package, Furr's "efforts significantly contributed to the surgical team's treatment of over 580 casualties" and he was also a member of a team that rescued five American prisoners of war.

He said he continued working 18 to 20 hour days until he had to be evacuated for his own health when he needed his appendix removed.

"I was evacuating patients when I got dizzy and had to spend the day in the ward before they evacuated me," he said.

Furr is a religious man and is a member of Grace Baptist Church in Lincolnton, N.C. He said his wife was supportive of him from start to finish.

"I was just doing my job. I had training and was proud to help," he said.

Connelly said these two men are "prime examples of this battalion," and "reflect highly on the quality of people I have working for me."

"My hat's off to everybody who went out, served their country and did a great job," said Reynolds.