cayla johnson

Branch:
Air Force

Duty Station:
Andrews Air Force Base

Number of Deployments:
0

Number of PCS's:
2

Share your military spouse story:
I have been a Military Spouse for 7 years. I am a mom of three beautiful and wild girls, a business owner and advocate. I would like to think that I have many names. I knew my life would change forever the day I became a military spouse. It has shown me that no matter what our weaknesses are, they are also our strengths. Being a Military wife has shown me the true meaning of resiliency, adapting and overcoming, and how important the beautiful friendships you acquire along the way are. Being a military spouse has strengthened my marriage and I am truly blessed to be married to my best friend. I am a Domestic Violence Survivor with PTSD and being a part of the Military Community has shown me the strength and courage to achieve goals I never thought I would reach. Currently I own two small businesses, I advocate on different platforms, and I also Home school our oldest daughter, who by the way is not a fan of mom as a teacher! Being an entrepreneur has been an amazing part of my journey, to be able to take my job with us on every move and to share the knowledge to new spouses has been a pleasure and a way of giving back to the community that has given me so much.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
I have a passion for mentoring new military spouses through advocacy and on our installation. Having an EFMP child I try to be a voice for other military families to help with questions/needs/programs/resources to benefit EFMP families. I aided in policy changes for Respite Care/EFMP benefits. I dedicate time to Mental Health resources for Military Spouses and have worked with my base’s Medical Group to incorporate more Military Spouses into Mental Health programs and to distribute knowledge of resources. I also mentor Domestic Violence victims in our community in recovery as well as Military Spouses battling depression or Mental health overall. By sharing your story and your journey, you can help someone in the most difficult time. I have worked with SAFE Project to educate senior leaders and families on Drug Abuse. Through SAFE Project I helped establish alternative treatment/therapy programs for members and families to combat the drug abuse epidemic that has taken place.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
I am a Key Spouse and have built the program from scratch. I am also a Key Spouse Mentor and have aided other Key Spouses in building and shaping their own programs to fit the needs of their units. As a Key Spouse I have created an individual resource handbook for other Key Spouses on our installation to share with their families. I had the privilege of being a part of a round table meeting with the House Armed Services Subcommittee about issues that military families face, such as housing, EFMP benefits, and Mental Health. As well as policies that need to be changed to better benefit Military Families. I attended the Military Spouse Employment Partnership with the goal of reaching new employers, to educate them on issues that military spouses face when seeking employment, overlooking employment gaps, and to provide training to military spouses who have not been able to further their education.

Describe how you support your community:
I support my community through education. I mentor new military spouses to empower them through their first PCS, provide resources to aid them in finding employment, PCS contacts at their next installation, and financial/savings resources. By empowering our new spouses we build a stronger and more resilient spouse for future leaders. I train dogs for military families. I work with deployed families on problem behaviors in dogs to aid those families through the deployment. I train service dogs for EFMP families to ease the financial and wait listed burden. Every EFMP family should have access to service animals without feeling overwhelmed by the financial burdens. I support the community by helping spouses find mental health resources/providers. I have worked with the installation M&FRC in providing Mental Health Workbooks for dependents. In the local community I work with Domestic Violence victims in finding employment/mental health resources they would need to start their recovery.

What platform do you advocate for? Why?
I advocate for Military Spouse Advocacy Network. Mentoring new spouses on the start of their military lives is the best way to give back to the military community. I love advocating with this platform because I am able to witness new military spouses blossom on the start of their journeys with the resources we are able to provide. I advocate for the National Alliance on Mental Illness. I believe that mental health resources should be readily available for all. No matter if you are a service member, a spouse, a dependent, or a retiree. I advocate for Speak Your Truth, a Domestic Violence program designed for victims still in Domestic Violence relationships. Having been a victim myself, without the support I received I would not be where I am today and I believe other men and women in abusive relationships should have the same support, so they are able to stand on their own without fear and with strength knowing they have someone there guiding them and rooting for them the entire way.

How have you spread the message of your platform?
I have attended the Military Spouse Employment Partnership to educate new employers about the Military Spouse Advocacy Network(MSAN) and how their company can benefit the new spouses that we mentor. I attended the Armed Forces Welcome Ceremony for General Mark A. Milley to represent MSAN and to inform senior leaders about the benefits of educating New Military Spouses. I have met with Military Times about creating a Spouse Corps platform for spouses to network and partner with others who are overcoming similar issues and provide spouses with resources. I attended a round table with the House Armed Services Subcommittee to talk about Mental Health challenges that Military Spouses face and how we need to provide additional resources to our families. I Represented MSAN at the Military Family Financial Readiness Coalition Round table to discuss what topics our young military spouses need to be educated on and how the program can provide that education.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
With the Military Spouse of the year title I would hope to highlight the issues that military spouses face and accomplish resolutions to tackle those issues. To bring together great minds to form those resolutions from all angles and for all branches. I would hope to inspire others to share their passions and find their strengths to achieve goals. I want to be an inspiration to others to advocate for changes in their communities. The greatest thing I could hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the year title is to light the spark in other spouses in the Military community to achieve what they never thought possible.

Nominations

During calendar year 2019 Cayla has selflessly given her time to multiple fronts advocating for military spouses as well as mental health. She sat on the first ever House Armed Services Committee round table with four other military spouses, leading the discussion for the restructure of the Exceptional Family Member Program and for increasing the mental health resources for spouses and families. Cayla dedicated 250+ hours towards mentoring new military spouses to ease their transition into the military lifestyle and family. She partnered with Military Times to field their Spouse Corps, a digital media source for spouses to share their experiences with other spouses. Cayla is currently working to rebuild and expand the Key Spouse resource list to highlight non-DoD resources. Cayla participated in the Military Spouse Employment Partnership to welcome 42 new inductees into the program, advocating for an easier transition for spouse employment between installations.
- by daniel johnson