The Red Cross dental assistant program is helping the Fort Leonard Wood community by providing experience to local students and qualified dental assistants to the installation.

"This program is a win-win for both the military and the Family members of Fort Leonard Wood. The U.S. Army Dental Activity receives the manpower for assisting dentists in providing care to our military forces through the volunteer's hours of chair-side on-the-job training," said Peter Buttner, American Red Cross of Eastern Missouri, Service to the Armed Forces station manager.

When the current class ends in February, 10 people will have graduated from the program. Five of them already have jobs, both on and off post.

"This program rewards the graduates with a lifetime skill that can go where they go with their military spouse. They learn to enjoy serving our military forces through their skill set they've acquired through this program," Buttner said.

Mona Hernandez is one of those graduates. She now works at the Roll Dental Clinic.

"I knew a few people who had been through the program at other military posts and was always interested. When I saw the recruitment advertisement I decided to apply for the program and was happy to have been selected," Hernandez said.

"The Red Cross dental assistant program has allowed me the opportunity to have a career that can be very flexible as far as the possibility of transferring duty stations with my husband through his military career along with any future retirement plans," she added.

Hernandez said the most rewarding part of her job is the satisfaction she gets from having a career of her own. Before she joined the dental assistant program, she was a stay-at-home mother and college student.

"The Red Cross dental assistant program is a great program that allows you the opportunity to learn a new skill while giving back to our military community. It's a wonderful choice for someone who likes to help people, is a team player and a multi-tasker." Hernandez said.

The dental assistant program lasts for about seven months and runs from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

People can email leonardwood@redcross.org or visit Building 496 Constitution Ave., for an application.

The Red Cross is no longer accepting applications for the January class, but another class is being planned for summer.

"The applications would be released about 60-90 days prior, so I would estimate around May 1, 2015," Buttner said.

"This program requires a serious commitment of time, energy and sacrifice to complete, but the results of completing this program can be instrumental in landing employment, if the timing is right," he added.