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Airman helps injured warriors 'face' the world

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Erin M. Peterson
  • 59th Medical Wing Public Affairs
The characteristics of a person's face are unmistakable. They are the uniqueness that makes you recognize a family member, a friend, a co-worker. Now imagine suddenly being stripped of those defining characteristics.

Many Soldiers, Sailors, Airman, and Marines have experienced this debilitating facial trauma.

Becoming more prevalent among wounded warriors are facial injuries. The features that protrude the most on a person's face are at a high risk for injury.

Fortunately, the Air Force has those who are dedicated to the reconstruction of a person's face.

Among them is Senior Airman Justin Jones, a maxillofacial prosthetic technician with the 59th Dental Squadron at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.

Airman Jones enlisted in the Air Force in December 2002. He was a dental lab technician for three and a half years before doing on-the-job training to become a maxillofacial prosthetic technician.

His position was previously occupied by a civilian contractor, now retired.

Airman Jones' qualifications come from studying art in high school and college where he gained an understanding of color and light. He has experience with oil painting, watercolor, clay sculpting.

He is now the only full-time maxillofacial prosthetic technician in the Air Force.

According to the Baylor College of Dentistry, maxillofacial prosthodontics is a subspecialty of dentistry which deals with the rehabilitation of patients with acquired and congenital defects of the head and neck region. Facial prosthetic devices are an essential part of restoring the physical and psychological well being for patients with missing or disfigured facial structures.

Airman Jones is brought in when it is decided that a patient could benefit from a facial prosthetic. In order to restore a patient's facial features, he often uses a pre-injury photo of the patient. On one occasion, a patient's father was even brought in to shape an ear and match the pigment exactly.

His goal is to improve the patient's quality of life, allowing them to live without drawing attention to a specific aspect of their physical appearance.

He works directly with the patients, perfecting the prosthetic until it suits each person precisely.

"I get to know my patients and they let me know exactly what they want. I love the work that I do," Airman Jones said.

Maxillofacial prosthetics staff works mainly with patients from Brooke Army Medical Center and the burn units in San Antonio.

Col. Jose Villalobos, the program director of Maxillofacial Prosthetics, praises Airman Jones' work.

"With all the war casualties coming in right now, it is important that we use our capabilities to help those wounded warriors. Senior Airman Jones has an artistic background and he uses his knowledge of sculpting, color and contours to restore missing or altered facial features. He has a passion for his craft and he is filling big shoes right now," Colonel Villalobos said.