Yokota Volunteers creating smiles - Red Cross Dental Assistant Program
Yokota Air Base, Japan -- Arriving at Yokota’s 374th Dental Clinic, you are more than likely to be greeted with a kind smile from an American Red Cross volunteer dental assistant. These volunteers are an essential part in patient care and clinic operations for many military dental clinics worldwide.
The American Red Cross Dental Assistant Program is a free training course for civilian volunteers and consists of classroom instruction and six-months of hands-on training. The course covers the core responsibilities of a military dental clinic, from patient care to records management.
“The biggest benefit is learning a new skill that can be used anywhere in the world,” said Lakeisha Simms, American Red Cross Services to the Armed Forces Regional Program Manager. “Some volunteers have secured employment at the Dental Clinics on their installation or nearby installations.” “While this is a non-licensing program, once completed, volunteers can use the skills and hours obtained towards getting certified,” said Simms.
The course at Yokota Air Base is taught by military members of the 374th Dental Squadron, who provide the classroom and hands-on training for the volunteers in their facility. The classroom training has guest lecturers from various dental fields, and the hands-on training is done side-by-side with military dentists and dental assistants.
Upon completion of the 650 hours total required training, the volunteers receive a certificate of completion of the Dental Assistant Program from the American Red Cross.
“The American Red Cross Dental Assistant Program certificate is very useful for military families moving from base to base,” said Tech Sgt. Thomas McCarthy, 374th Dental Squadron dental assistant craftsman and Red Cross volunteer dental assistant program coordinator. “When they apply for a spot at the dental clinic it shows they have the knowledge, skills and experience needed to work in a military dental clinic,” said McCarthy. “It makes it very easy for us to take on the people who have the Red Cross certificate.”
The program is more than a way to bring helping hands into the dental clinic, it also provides dependents with meaningful opportunities towards personal growth and experience.
“This is a great program and experience,” said Olga Gaiduk, Red Cross Dental Assistant Program Volunteer. “It is really hard to be a dependent overseas; there are only a few jobs and affordable educational opportunities.” “Here, I get to learn and work in a field that won’t just be a job while I’m here at Yokota, but a career that is portable and I can take with me to our next duty location,” said Gaiduk.
For others, the course is a chance to get an in-depth look into the dental field.
“I just graduated from high school and I’m planning on going to dental school next year,” said Kathryn Lambie, Red Cross Dental Assistant Program volunteer. “This opportunity lets me dip my foot in the water before I decide if dentistry is what I want to do.”
Alongside knowledge and experience, the volunteers who finish the program gain a professional family community where they feel welcome.
“It is really nice to work hand in hand with them for six or so months,” said McCarthy. “It is rewarding when our volunteers graduate.” “They become part of the dental family by that point and they found a place to belong.”
The course is offered at military bases worldwide including: Yokota Air Base, Camp Zama, Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Kaden Air Base, and Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler.
To be eligible for the program applicants must be: 18 years-old or older, a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) ID card holder, have a Date Eligible to Return from Overseas (DEROS) of at least 18 months, and have a high school diploma or GED.
Ms. Simms suggests to learn when the next Dental Assisting course is available follow the Yokota Red Cross or Yokota Air Base’s Facebook pages. Yokota’s American Red Cross works to offer the program twice a year, but the course and class size are dependent on Yokota’s Dental Clinic’s availability.
For more information on the Red Cross Dental Assistant Program please contact Yokota’s Red Cross Mon-Fri 0800-1630 at 225-7522 or 042-507-6547. Their office is located in the Airman & Family Readiness Center, building 535.