New Castle News

January 25, 2014

Double duty: Latest Naval appointment caps sterling career for Mount Jackson dentist

David Burcham
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Blending a successful civilian life with an exemplary military career has been a double blessing for Dr. Thomas Patton.

The Mount Jackson dentist has seen the world, courtesy of the Navy. But whether volunteering at home or going on humanitarian missions to Africa and Panama, Patton has always tried to make the world a better place.

Affiliated with the Navy for five decades, including the last 37 years as a reservist, Patton has been appointed commanding officer of the Navy’s newly-established Expeditionary Medical Facility at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

The Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery created the unit to provide medical support for expeditionary operations. Patton said the unit’s mission is to provide medical and dental services across the full range of military operations when called upon to support a combatant commander.

The appointment will require Patton to travel to Bethesda at least once a month.

“The unit performs a role similar to the former reserve fleet hospitals and is composed of an active component supported by approximately 500 selected reserve medical personnel.”

Patton said a hospital unit with up to 250 beds can be set up wherever needed. He helped train personnel for just that endeavor in 1990 in preparation for Desert Storm.

“It’s been wonderful; I’ve had a wonderful civilian life with a practice that I love and a Navy career,” Patton said. “But I wouldn’t have had any of it without the sacrifices and total commitments of my family and patients.”

In addition to his dental practice and Naval Reserve commitment, Patton is a member of the Bessemer-Mohawk Rotary Club, a Boy Scout Leader in Troop 721, a member of the Pulaski Presbyterian Church and a board member of the Mt. Jackson Museum Foundation.

 “Tom has had a phenomenal career,” said Capt. Mary Riggs, deputy director of Reserve Policy and Integration. “He started as enlisted and went all the way to Navy Chief. Then he became an officer and ascended the ranks to captain.”

Riggs said Patton was named to the board-appointed position following the unit’s creation two months ago.

A native of Edinburg, Patton enlisted in the Navy in 1972 just after graduation from Mohawk High School. After boot camp, he was meritoriously promoted to Seaman Apprentice and reported to Dental Technician “A” school at Naval Training Center.

Following a four year enlistment, Patton left active duty in 1976 and affiliated with the Navy Reserves.

He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh Dental School  in 1984, the same year he became a Navy chief. He began a dental practice in Mount Jackson in 1985.

While drilling at Navy Reserve Center in Youngstown, he was selected as a chief petty officer (DTC) in 1984. He was later discharged and accepted a direct commission as a lieutenant in the Navy Reserve Dental Corps.

Patton has served at various commands and held multiple positions. His awards include Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (3 Awards), Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation, Navy Good Conduct Medal, Navy Reserve Meritorious Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal (3 Awards), Global War on Terrorism, Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Overseas Service Ribbon, Armed Forces Reserve Medal with Gold Hourglass, Navy Pistol Ribbon with Silver “E” Expert Marksmanship.

Patton and the former Karen Sue Nolder have been married for 40 years and have five children, Matt (married to Jessica), Brad (married to Ashley), Eric (married to Nikki), Tammy and Mark. They have three grandsons: Andy, Josh and Ethan.

Tom is a son of Gayle and Margaret Patton, who were married for 65 years before Gayle’s death in 2011. The Navy connection runs deep in the family. Gayle served during World War II and Tom’s older brother, Russell, who died in 2004, was also a sailor.

Tom isn’t even the only Navy dentist from the family. His uncle, Chuck, is retired and lives in Neshannock.

Patton, 60, plans to retire from military when his two year appointment expires. “I feel it’s an honor to be able to serve the country,” he said. “Then it will be time for others to take the lead and take command,” he said.

(Email: d_burcham@ncnewsonline.com)