FORT SILL, Okla. (May 31, 2018) -- Six dental assistants graduated earlier this month from the American Red Cross Dental Assistant Training Program here.

The Red Cross at Reynolds Army Health Clinic (RAHC), in partnership with Fort Sill's Dental Activity (DENTAC), offers dental assistant training for military-sponsored ID cardholders.

Graduates of the May 16 event, all military spouses, were: Ramona Brown, Lyesha Francis, Taylor Houston, Kristyn Judge, Leydis Lam, and Kelly Scaldaferri.

The officer in charge, Capt. Sana Yusuf, doctor of dental medicine and program director of the dental assistant program, explained the program.

"It's mainly for military dependents and spouses. It's six months of rigorous training," she said. "We started with eight, and six graduated. The first month is all classroom lectures, quizzes, and slides. From February to May it's hands-on in clinics and at DENTAC. They rotated through military treatment facilities at Cowan and Allen (Dental clinics).

"Some will continue to volunteer and others are out searching for jobs," Yusuf said. "The focus (of instruction) is spouses who want a job wherever their spouses PCS -- here or overseas. Wherever you go there's always a dental clinic."

The program is geared toward working in military dental clinics, she said. "It's standardized across the board and is free to trainees. For us (dentists), we have our own unit duties and have to block out time to teach. It's an additional duty. It's part of DENTAC."

Scaldaferri, who received recognition as "most accomplished," has an active-duty sergeant first class husband. She said she'll continue to volunteer while looking for a job.

"I would love to work at one of the clinics on post," she said. "The hardest thing about this class was overcoming my initial doubts. I wasn't an assistant; I was learning to become one."

Scaldaferri has been at Fort Sill since 2013 and said her husband, at 18-and-a-half years in the Army, will retire here.

"I first heard about this program when we were stationed in Germany. At the time I wanted something other than McDonald's or Wal-Mart," Scaldaferri said. "I applied a couple of years ago and was denied. I was a stay-at-home mom for 14-and-a-half years; my son graduated high school and I'm ready to work again."

She further explained that to qualify for the dental assistant program, she had to undergo an entire interview process, much like any job, and that normally such training costs between $10,000 to $15,000 to become an assistant.

Judge, valedictorian of her class, also spoke of her experience.

"I first saw an announcement in a flyer in November (2017)," she said. "I talked with my husband (active-duty Army) about doing it because we have two young kids. He said to me to try it out, make sure I like it. If I get it, fine, if not, that's OK. It wasn't difficult (academically), but it was a lot."

The dental assistant program is a five-month, 40-hours-per-week training program that includes 120 hours of classroom and 500 hours of chair-side instruction. Those selected will receive training in dental radiology, dental anatomy and in proper care of dental instruments. Qualified students receive chair-side clinic time.

Those selected need to complete Red Cross online in-processing and orientation, acquire all necessary immunizations and complete other additional program-specific training, to include basic lifesaving. Selectees must also be prepared to provide their own transportation and child care during training.