AFCLC Outreach Team
“I think she’s aware of what it means when mommy puts on the uniform”.
Every morning TSgt Alisha Caton puts on her uniform, gets her two daughters ready for the day and heads to work at the Air Force Culture and Language Center. Some days, her husband is at the house to help, other days, he’s off working overseas.
“It’s hard, but, I have been fortunate enough to have great leadership here at AFCLC who understands what it means to be a dual-military family,” TSgt Caton said.
A Prattville native, TSgt Caton graduated from high school in 2003 and immediately joined the Alabama Air National Guard. While serving, she met her husband who is a F16 Crew Chief and is also a part of the Alabama Air National Guard 18th Fighter Wing.
“I joined the guard right out of high school,” she said, “I lucked up and got into maintenance and it turned into a full-time job and a lifelong career. I am basically like any other military person, except I don’t move. I travel a lot, but, I always come back home”.
While marriage can be tough for any couple, dual-military families face unique obstacles: TDY’s and deployments. The Caton’s travel several times throughout the year, but TSgt Caton’s husband is often gone on longer deployments. TSgt Caton said he belongs the “fighter package” and at any given time, he is in Romania, Ukraine, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
“When you don’t have the other teammate on the home front, it can wear on you,” she said, “it wears on your children, it wears on all of us”.
The mother of two daughters, a nine-year-old and a seven-month-old, TSgt Caton and her husband are slowly teaching her oldest what is means to serve. Sometimes, she said that means have difficult and honest conversations…with a child who is only nine.
“She understands, some of it,” TSgt Caton said, “the long hours, the going and coming, the drill weekends, the TDY’s and I would say she is pretty flexible, but I know it hits her hard sometimes. I’ve had to have some pretty tough conversations with her….conversations about loss. I have had friends over the years who have served and passed away and it’s hard on all of us”.
To help cope, TSgt Caton tries to surround her daughter with other military children. When her daughter was younger, she attended Maxwell’s Child Development Center on Maxwell Air Force Base. She said on base her daughter met children from all around the world.
“Being a military child, she was exposed to other children who were also dealing with TDY’s and deployments, children from different backgrounds who spoke different languages. I’ll never forget when she was really small her ‘very best friend’ was from Senegal and did not speak any English, but, they were inseparable,” TSgt Caton laughed, “they did not let the language barrier stop them”.
Having the support on base and at the AFCLC has helped TSgt Caton’s entire family over the years, she said. At the AFCLC, TSgt Caton is the highest enlisted officer on staff and works as the financial management NCO. On the job, she makes purchase reviews and handles processing. She also works closely with the Language Enabled Airman Program helping participants navigate the Defense Travel System process for their immersions.
After work, she picks up her daughters and heads home. To her children, she’s just your “average mom”, only she’s wearing a uniform.
“We are a military family,” TSgt Caton said, “I want to teach my children what that means. I want them to understand patriotism, sacrifice, and what it means to serve”.