Over the course of their careers, noncommissioned officers are asked to take on leadership responsibilities, often facing challenges and opportunities that help them grow professionally and personally.

Sergeant Julissa Torres, the NCO in charge at the Edgewood Area Dental Clinic, which is part of the Aberdeen Proving Ground Dental Command, said that her experience as a leader has positively impacted her life and has given her confidence to continue to set high goals for herself.

Torres said that her faith in God has strongly influenced her life and is grateful to God for the opportunities that she has had.

"I would like to thank God before anything else," she said. "Without him nothing is possible in this life."

Torres said that before joining the Army she never thought that someday she would be in a leadership position.

"Before joining the Army, I was a single mother with three kids. I was living with my sister, and I was having a hard time providing for them," she said.

Torres said that she desired to have a home of her own so she took guidance from her mother, who taught her that if you want something you have to work hard for it.

Torres said that she decided to join the Army to create a better standard of living for her children and herself.

"When I told people that I wanted to join the Army some told me that I wouldn't be able to do it because I was a single mother with three children," Torres said. "But I wanted to join despite what they said."

Torres was able to achieve her goal and joined the Army in 2000.

She said that today she is grateful for the opportunities that joining brought her.

"The Army changed my life," she said adding that when she first joined the Army she was stationed in Fort Hood, Texas, working with the 502nd Dental Command as a dental assistant.

While serving at Fort Hood she deployed to Kuwait at Camp Virginia for six months and served six months in Iraq at Camp Anaconda. A year later she served at Camp Liberty in Iraq for a year.

Torres said that while it was hard being away from her children, she is thankful for her Family and friends who helped raise her children while she was deployed, making it possible for her to have a career in the Army.

In 2007, Torres was stationed at APG where she served as a dental hygienist for APG DENTAC in the Aberdeen Area.

She said that Col. Colleen Shull, the former commander of APG DENTAC, was a great mentor who exhibited confidence in her by encouraging her to take on leadership roles and go back to school.

"I learned so much from her," Torres said. "Colonel Shull helped me learn how APG DENTAC is managed and how to set and achieve goals for the clinic and for myself. She encouraged me to move forward and showed me that I have potential."

Torres added that by setting goals and having someone believe in her she had the strength to grow as a leader and take more responsibility.

In 2008 Torres became the NCOIC of the Edgewood Area Dental Clinic. She said that at first she was a little intimidated by the position as it was her first leadership role, but with experience and guidance from her mentors she now feels comfortable and enjoys her job.

Torres said that in her position she is in charge of making sure that the clinic achieves goals set by the Department of Defense.

Torres said that APG DENTAC meets the DoD readiness standard of 95 percent of service members stationed at APG being in Class 1 or Class 2, which means they are deployable world wide.

Torres also said that APG DENTAC has also successfully implemented First-Term Dental Readiness, which is aimed at providing dental care in the initial training of a Soldier's career so that Soldiers will be fully deployable.

Torres said that Shull impressed upon her and the rest of the APG DENTAC staff that dental health is important to the overall health of the Soldier. She said that it is important for Soldiers to be in good dental health so that they do not face any dental emergencies that could have been avoided while they are deployed.

Torres said that as NCOIC it is her responsibility to make sure that readiness is up at the clinic and to supervise nine civilians and two Soldiers.

Torres said that she aims to be a good leader and mentor and to take time to listen to those who she supervises. She added that everyone is a valuable asset to the team, and appreciates their work.

"I feel like when you are an NCO it is your responsibility to help younger Soldiers who will be future NCOs," Torres said. "I love my job. I love being able to help people and help Soldiers become ready for the mission."

Torres said that she continues to work on her personal goals by attending school at Harford Community College. She said that one day she wants to be a dentist.

Torres, who was born in Panama, said that school is a bit of a struggle as English is her second language, but she is determined to achieve her goals.

"It is always good to have a dream," she said. "In my life I have overcome fears, and I have pursued my dreams."

Colonel John Barker, the officer in charge at the Edgewood Area Dental Clinic, said that Torres is dedicated to her job as the NCOIC.

"She is highly motivated and very professional," Barker said. "We are very fortunate to have an NCO of her caliber. She is a great mentor to the junior enlisted Soldiers."

Neshia Hoke, who is a dental assistant, said that she enjoys having Torres as her supervisor.

"She is very easy to work with, and her door is always open," Hoke said.

Torres said that outside of work she enjoys spending time with her Family, which often means going to her children's sports games with her husband, Warrant Officer Michael McVay who she married while she was stationed at Fort Hood. He now works for the 20th Support Command (CBRNE).