Born in Jamaica, West Indies, Dawn Cater attended school and grew up in Queens, New York. Upon graduating high school she immediately joined the United States Army, completing basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. She was assigned to the Veterinary Corps with the military occupational specialty of food inspection specialist. This job entailed the inspection of all subsistence delivered to a military base as well as inspection of food warehouses and companies that produced and delivered food products to the military. Her job training was conducted at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Her first duty assignment was the Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, Florida. After just one year in Jacksonville, she was re-assigned overseas to Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers, Europe (SHAPE) with duty at Chievres Air Base, Belgium in 1985. After serving two years in Belgium she returned to the United States receiving an assignment close to home. From 1987 – 1990, she was assigned to Fort Dix, New Jersey with duty in Bayonne, New Jersey, Fort Hamilton, New York and Mitchel Field, Long Island New York. These assignments allowed her to spend time with her family.
By 1990, she had the desire to go back overseas. At the rank of Specialist (E-4), she was assigned to the Medical Department in Panama. It was an assignment the allowed her the opportunity to visit her birth home of Jamaica. In this assignment, she had the responsibility of inspecting local Panamanian dairies and meat slaughter plants for product compliance and sanitation. After 18 months in the Caribbean, she was reassigned, this time to Fort Ord, Monterey, California. Panama would be her last overseas assignment.
Returning from Panama as a Sergeant, she was assigned to Veterinary Services, Fort Ord, California with duty at Camp Roberts, a National Guard post outside of Paso Robles. After spending just one year at Camp Roberts, she moved up to Fort Ord, California to become the Noncommissioned Officer in Charge of Food Inspection and Training. In December 1992, she gave birth to twin boys, Joseph and Brandon, at Travis Air Force Base Hospital, Fairfield, California. Realizing that raising twin boys would be financially stressful, she applied for and received acceptance into the Warrant Officer Candidate School. And so, in 1994, she embarked on her journey to become a Warrant Officer at the Warrant Officer Candidate School, Fort Rucker, Alabama and then Fort Sam Houston, Texas to become a Veterinary Services Technician. Her Warrant Officer assignments included Fort McPherson, Georgia; Fort Jackson, South Carolina and Fort Lee, Virginia. In her desire to excel professionally and personally, she continually enrolled in college courses at her various duty stations.
As a Warrant Officer she applied for and was accepted into the Long Term Civilian Education Program. This program allowed her to return to school for two years in order to complete a Bachelor’s Degree in a field relevant to her military occupation. She chose North Carolina State University to obtain a degree in Food Science, graduating with honors in 2001. Her final assignment was Fort Lee, Virginia. In 2004, after 20 years and 6 months in the United States Army, she decided to retire.
After working one year for a civilian organization conducting food safety audits and training, she began teaching Junior Reserves Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC). Prior to becoming the Senior Army Instructor for the Dinwiddie HS JROTC, she taught one year at John Marshall High School, Richmond, Virginia and five years at Brunswick High School, Lawrenceville, Virginia. Believing that education is the key to success, she has earned two Master’s Degrees: Curriculum and Instruction from University of Colorado, Colorado Springs and Special Education, Liberty University, Virginia.