When I asked Melissa Dixon, last month’s B United featured soldier, if she knew any bada** women I could send a healthy care package to, without hesitation, she exclaimed, “CARA LEAF!” :) I am honored to share part of these women’s stories with you. Thank you for everything you do for our country and for blazing the trail for future generations of courageous women.
1. Name: Cara Leaf
2. Age: 26
3. Hometown: Aurora, Colorado
4. Family (significant other, children and their ages, fur babies, etc): Husband (Alex) and my cat Winston
5. Branch: Air Force
6. Job Title: Sexual Assault Response Coordinator
7. Job Description: I work with/advocate for victims of sexual assault. This includes the prevention piece- teaching about what leads to sexual assault and how to support survivors. This is a huge push in the military right now. I will be in the job during my deployment and then I will transition back to my normal job (food, fitness, lodgining- the funs stuff!).
8. Enlist Date: I commissioned on 2 June 2016
9. What motivated you to join the military? An interest in doing something bigger than myself. I remember what 9/11 felt like when I was younger. I was only in third grade and very confused. Deployments are necessary because they help keep the war away from home instead of in the U.S.
10.Are or were any of your family members in the military? If so, who and what branch?My dad and grandfather were in the military and my sister, brother-in-law, and husband are in as well. All Air Force.
11.Tell me a little about your time in bootcamp.Long story but I have been through it three times! It always starts out feeling impossible and then it becomes easier and easier. Just a mental game.
12.Where have you traveled to while in the service?All over! Poland, South Korea, the Middle East.
13.What are some things you miss most about home when you are deployed?Hanging out with my husband at home! Cooking dinner with him, watching tv, going to costco. All the simple things!
14.Which medals or citations are you most proud to have earned and why? I have only been in 3 years but I have been proud of what I have earned so far. I earned a Commendation medal for PCSing.
15.What rank are you most proud to have earned and why?I am a First Lieutenant and have automatic promotions until Major. I am proud of commissioning and graduating from the Air Force Academy. Becoming a second lieutenant was hands down the best day of my life.
16.What are some of the biggest challenges of being a woman in the military? Balancing who I think I should be with who I want to be. There is a fine line in leadership where a female is either “the mom” or the “mean girl”. It’s hard to accept that and what people say about you.
17.Tell me about some of the special people you have met. I have met a lot of amazing people with truly inspiring stories! I think my favorite one has been Holocaust survivors. There stories were hard to hear! It was so sad to hear them share the losses of their children, spouses, and friends. Knowing they could get through something like that pushed me to look at my own life.
18.Do you plan to retire in the military? Or what are your post-military plans? I would love to stay in the military 20 years and retire. I know you can’t plan life so I am going with the flow right now.
19.How has your service and experiences affected your life? The service has really shaped me. It has helped me branch out to do things I never thought I would. It pushes me to go farther. I have traveled to different countries, took water survival (even though I hate swimming), jumped out of an airplane 5 times on my own, and pushed my physical and mental abilities.
20.What do you like to do for fun? I am from Colorado so I love to hike! Running has also become a passion of mine (partly because I love to cook and bake too much!).
21.How do you stay in shape? I run!I have really been focusing on fitness on my deployment.
22.What makes you feel strong? Pushing my mental and physical abilities. Sometimes I go to the gym thinking “I will just do a quick 20 minute workout because I am tired” and then I get there and do way more than I thought I could! That makes me feel strong.
23.Favorite part of your job: Seeing how caring people are. My job can be tough emotionally but people do care and want to help.
24.Any additional comments or things you would like to share with readers? Smile- life is good!