Total Force Air Commando continues breaking barriers

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- Military life is typically unplanned and unpredictable. Some may view that as a negative, but having an open mind and saying yes to opportunities can take you on an unbelievable adventure.

Meet Capt. Kaci Dixon. She is currently an intelligence IMA reservist assigned to Air Force Special Operations Command. Dixon has experienced all aspects of the Air Force including active duty, Guard and Reserve, but this fact is far from the most interesting thing about her career.

“I never had a plan, I just volunteered for random things as they came up,” Dixon said.

She started her Air Force career in 2009 as an active-duty intelligence officer at the 11th Special Operations Intelligence Squadron at Hurlburt Field.

As a fairly new second lieutenant, she deployed to Afghanistan in support of Army Special Forces.

“This deployment was an uphill battle,” she said. “I was a female in the Air Force, so naturally, I didn’t fit in. I had to prove myself. But, the team recognized I was capable after they saw me doing my job.”

When she returned to Hurlburt, she moved to the 720th Operations Support Squadron. In this position, she deployed to Central America with the 125th Special Tactics Squadron, a Guard unit in Oregon.

Dixon was the first female intelligence officer to fully integrate with special tactics personnel, according to her medal citation.

“We traveled to very remote locations, and I was with the team to conduct landing zone and airfield assessment surveys,” she said.

Dixon said that she felt like a valued member of the team throughout the whole deployment.

“I was the only female, but it didn’t seem to matter much,” she said. “Unlike my first deployment, it was a seamless transition. I think it was because we were all Air Force and we weren’t in a war zone.”

After 4 years on active-duty, Dixon decided to separate from active duty and join the Oregon Air National Guard.

“I didn’t want to completely cut my ties with the Air Force, so I found an opportunity with the 125th STS, the same unit I deployed with to Central America,” she said. “During my time there, I took a year to travel and relax. Then, I attended law school in Wyoming.”

As a guardsman, she volunteered to participate in the Women in Service Review at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. WISR was a congressionally mandated study to assess women in previously male-only combat roles.

Dixon said it was a two-week process. The first week was a series of about 30 physical tests to measure strength, agility, flexibility, speed and endurance. The second week involved tests in a simulated operational environment, like dragging a 200-pound dummy with 30 pounds of gear through an obstacle course.

“There were a bunch of us going through these tests together,” she said. “It wasn’t just women, there were men and special operators going through it too.”

Being a part of WISR reminded Dixon of what she was missing on active duty.

“Being surrounded by the ‘crème of the crop’ Airmen inspired me,” she said. “It made me want to come back and serve full-time.”

Dixon said there was a time limit on her position in the Guard. When it was approaching, she found her next opportunity as an IMA in the Air Force Reserves at Hurlburt Field.

“I love being back here,” she said. “I work with the same people that I worked with on active duty.”

Dixon said she applied to be an attorney in the JAG and was accepted.

Now, she’s planning on returning to active duty in 2018.

“I have no idea where I’ll be stationed yet,” she said. “I just hope I’m able to be with my husband and my daughter.”

Dixon’s story proves that when your heart is in the right place, fate may take you to incredible places.

“Some of the best things I’ve done have been by chance,” she said. “It’s been a fun ride.”