Military Dentists: A Full-Filling Career Choice
By Senior Master Sgt. Beth Holliker, 180th Fighter Wing
/ Published March 09, 2018
Swanton, Ohio -- Military service has long been a tradition in her family and Ludwig had always felt the draw to serve.
“My maternal grandfather quit high school and joined the Army, along with two of his brothers, during WWII,” said Ludwig. “My uncle served in the Navy and my father served in the Army.”
Considering a career in the U.S. Air Force, Ludwig looked into the U.S. Air Force Academy, but the curriculum did not align well with pre-dental requirements. She also considered joining the active duty ranks, but decided to stay closer to home and pursue her education in the dental field.
It wasn’t until several years later, during her dental residency program, that the urge to serve her country surfaced again.
During her residency program, Ludwig had the chance to work with other dental professionals who were assigned, as dentist, to the Air National Guard.
After learning about their experiences and the opportunities available in the ANG’s dental field, Dr. Jennifer Ludwig, DC, and DDS, raised her right hand and joined the Ohio National Guard’s 180th Fighter Wing, in January, 2001 and never looked back.
Now, 17 years later and officer in charge of the wing’s five-person dental team, Ludwig couldn’t be more proud of her career choice.
“I really planned on completing my initial six-year commitment and then moving on,” said Ludwig. “But after six years, the 180th and the medical group became another family to me and I couldn’t leave. This is part of who I am and I’m not done yet.”
Ludwig and her team are charged with ensuring dental health and readiness of the more than 1,000 members assigned to the 180FW, sometimes conducting up to 75 dental exams in one training weekend.
“Our Airmen are required to be both physically and medically fit and ready to deploy at a moment’s notice, and that includes dental health,” said 180FW Commander, Col. Kevin Doyle. “When we are deployed around the world and in the fight, we won’t always have access to advanced dental care and we don’t want our folks to be dealing with preventable dental issues or pain. We need them fit to fight.”
Not only has she led the charge to ensure 180FW members are ready to meet world-wide, mission requirements, Ludwig and her team, have also been able to support missions closer to home.
“I love being challenged,” said Ludwig. “And one of the biggest challenges was a humanitarian mission we did as part of our Innovative Readiness Training, in Marten Tennessee in 2013. The unmet dental need was unlike anything I had ever seen. Heartbreaking and rewarding all at the same time.
The 180FW dental and medical teams participate in IRT events often, partnering with the Army, Navy and Marines to provide free, and much needed, medical care to at-risk communities around the country, most recently participating in two IRT events in 2017.
Ludwig is a drill status guardsman, meaning that her military requirements are to participate in training weekends, once a month. In addition, DSG members must participate in at least two weeks of active duty, military readiness training each year, as an operational reserve to the active duty force, all while balancing a fulltime civilian career.
When not serving in her military capacity, Ludwig is an orthodontist serving the Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan areas, where she and her business partner operate three office locations in Lambertville, Michigan and in Sylvania and Monclova, Ohio.