Lauren Catoe

Branch: Army

Duty Station: Fort Meade

Number of Deployments: 1

Number of PCS's: 6

Share your military spouse story:
In 2007 I met a man that would become my husband over Myspace. We had a few conversations online, but never met in person. In January 2008 he reported to Basic Training and then Advance Individual Training (AIT). Unfortunately, his first operational assignment was a year long tour to South Korea immediately following AIT. As a result, Jason and I were unable to meet in person until 2009, nearly two years after meeting virtually. It wasn’t long before I knew that I would be with him for the rest of my life. As a registered Dental Hygienist in the states of South Carolina and North Carolina, I knew it would be a significant challenge to maintain licensure in each state we would PCS. With this in mind, I decided to sacrifice my professional career to support his career, start a family, and become active within the military community. Jason and I have now been married for 10 years and have three beautiful daughters. In 2018 my family and I experienced a significant mold issue in our on-base house that was amplified by the negligence of the Private Partner Venture (PPV). It was this experience that inspired me to begin advocating or families living in on-base housing.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
Since 2018 I have used my passion, tenacity, and expertise to drive change in policy, standards, and processes that have positively impacted nearly 5,000 DoD families at Fort Belvoir, VA and Fort Meade, MD. I have sacrificed countless hours with my family to ensure that DoD families have safe homes, an accountable PPV, and a proactive garrison command. Because of my leadership and advocacy, nearly $60,000 has been reimbursed directly to military families that were victim of PPV negligence. Additionally, more than 10 neighborhood parks have been repaired to meet safety standards and more than 10 miles of sidewalks have been identified and contracted for repairs to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Furthermore, I have personally spearheaded initiatives that have resulted in the publication of Garrison Mold Standard Operating Procedures.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
My support to military families has spanned from E1 to O6. I firmly believe that regardless of rank or position, we are all entitled to safe housing. With a coalition of impassioned friends, I have created a nonprofit resident advocate organization to help families that are facing on base housing problems while also working with garrison command teams and PPVs to identify problems and develop solutions. I have made myself available during days, nights, weekends, and holidays to answer questions, provide recommendations, and provide in-home inspections of potential safety concerns in a home — often times having to pay a baby sitter so I can meet with the resident. I have cultivated networks of action throughout the Senate Armed Services Committee, House Armed Services Committee, General Officers and staff, Garrison command teams, senior PPV leadership, and local media to develop and implement solutions for challenging problems facing the military community.

Describe how you support your community:
I am a consistent visible and vocal leader in the community. I give a voice to those that feel they are voiceless. I provide resources, recommendations, and educate those that are having problems with their on-base house and for safety concerns throughout the on-base communities. When families are displaces from their normal home due to mold or any other issues, I set up meal trains and support networks for them. This year, my family and I even opened our home up to a displaced family for Thanksgiving dinner. My goal is to provide as much support to displaced families to make an extremely stressful situation a little less daunting. I have also volunteered countless hours learning industry standards for home remediation to ensure residents are getting what they are entitled to by law. I have built a network of like minded, results oriented, and well-educated advocates spanning more than 5 states that are pursuing initiatives that directly help families and influence sustained change.

What do you advocate for? Why?
First and foremost, I advocate for a safe home and community for all residents living in on base housing. Additionally, I am unrelenting in my pursuit of holding the garrison command teams and PPVs to the National Defense Authorization Act Tenants Bill of Rights. I strongly advocate for complete transparency between the garrison command teams, PPVs, and residents. I advocate for systems and policies that will protect residents and withstand the test of time and PCS cycles. I advocate for these families because I have learned a lot while previously going through my personal on-base housing crisis and as a result feel the need to use my past experiences to help others. Also, I firmly believe God has put us here to help others as much as we can — we are all in this together. As Robert F. Kennedy said, “The purpose of life is to contribute in some way to making things better”.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
Without a doubt, social media is my primary platform for advocacy. I am a member of numerous resident lead Facebook pages and spouse group chats at Fort Belvoir, Virginia and Fort Meade, Maryland. Additionally, I contribute to monthly Garrison town hall events and housing huddles voicing the concerns of residents. I have had routine in-person and virtual communication with congressional leadership and senior military leaders. I have engaged with media outlets to discuss the successes and challenges residents are still facing with on-base housing. All of these efforts have resulted in positive change for military families.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
With the title of AFI Military Spouse of the Year, I would like to garner more attention to the problems that continue to impact thousands of military families. For instance, the National Defense Authorization Act formalized the Tenants’ Bill of Rights. This was a huge success for military families across the nation, but unfortunately little has been done to ensure the garrison command teams and PPVs have been held to those standards. One of the more troubling things I have encountered is junior enlisted families that are dealing with significant safety issues in their home, but they are scared to speak up because of fear of retaliation. The AFI Military Spouse of the Year title will help me provide a voice to those service members and families that feel they are voiceless.


I met Lauren months after her family moved to Fort Belvoir and began dealing with unsafe living conditions in military housing. She began attending monthly housing focus group meetings to bring community concerns to the Garrison and eventually began advocating for safe military housing with the BHAG. Her involvement in the community, sounded the alarm for families who were living in homes riddled with mold, high CO2, and other hazards that eventually brought General Edward M. Daly to the installation. She volunteers her time selflessly, whether it's ensuring a family has safe accommodations during displacement from their home, ensuring ADA families have proper access to their home, or reading the laws and standards applicable while waiting for her children in a school pick up line to help provide resources. She is passionate in her pursuit to bring about change for the military community and has continued her involvement at Fort Meade inspiring me and others to use their voice.
- by Raven Roman