Canadian Dental Surgeon Heads to Afghanistan to Mentor Troops



A Canadian dental surgeon recently decided there was more for him to do than be a dentist.

So instead of maintaining his practice and making the money he was on course to make, he opted to head to the Kandahari desert to mentor Afghan troops in counter-insurgency tactics.

“Most people find it hard to relate to,” Capt. Luong Phuc Nguyen told the Vancouver Sun. “I am losing a lot of money and not furthering my career.”

Nguyen, whose parents are from Vietnam, chose to mentor the Afghan troops. But he’s not simply a military dentist or dental surgeon behind the scenes. He’s a qualified infantry officer and will be at a Forward Operating Base with combat troops. That means he’s not behind the scenes, which is something he did during a tour in 2007-2008.

He doesn’t mention that he’s a dental surgeon, to prevent the soldiers he mentors from viewing him as a dentist instead of infantry officer.

Nguyen became an infantryman in the Van Doo reserves in 1999 after he graduated from dental school. He is second in command in his infantry unit.

Nguyen encounters some problems with mentoring the soldiers because they don’t have the same education as an American or a Canadian. They also need better equipment to fight to the best of their ability.

A problem in the back of Nguyen’s mind is the possibility of one of the Afghan soldiers  turning on him and attacking him. Still, he doesn’t have any extra security. He simply travels around with an interpreter.

Despite the exhilaration Nguyen feels from being deployed, this will most likely be his last time doing this.

“I promised my wife before my first tour that it would be my last,” he said. “I don’t want to break that promise a second time by going on a third tour.”