Interview with the Batys

By Circe Woessner and Allen Dale Olson

My father and I recently interviewed Sam and Linda Baty, a retired Air Force family who live in Albuquerque, NM. We met at a community center in the Northeast Heights.

Linda had been teaching second grade in Albuquerque, NM,  for four years, when in 1963,  she married  Sam Baty, quit her job, and  took on the full-time career  of Air Force wife at Malmstrom AFB.

She explains, “I decided to give up teaching, because getting registered to teach in another state was difficult in the time frame I needed, and I was not interested in becoming a substitute teacher.  Sam was on Minuteman Missile Duty and spent part of his time at home.  I was interested in becoming a good wife and a good military wife, and most of the wives did not work.” Sam elaborates.

Sam and Linda Baty’s wedding photo.

Linda had to learn a whole new culture and way of life.

“The most important things I had to learn were the chain of command and other military information, what was expected of an officers’ wife and military slang – such as “TDY” and “R&R.”  It was a new language.  I learned these things from my husband and from observing and talking to other military wives.  It was not too difficult, because we had close contact to many military families.  There was no specific person mentoring me.”

After four years of teaching, adjusting to the role of Officer’s Wife could have been boring. Linda says, while it certainly was different from teaching school, she had to learn a lot of military protocol and diplomacy.

My father asks, “After having had a career, what does a teacher do to fill the time?” and Sam answers. 

Linda Baty at the Armed Forces Hostess Association office in the Pentagon with Caroline Welkom, another Air Force volunteer.

Linda points out the things she did. “I spent a lot of time in the military volunteering for the Officers’ Wives’ Club, Squadron Wives’ activities, and doing things asked of me by the commanders’ wives. Among the more interesting things were the following activities:

(1) serving on the planning committee for a tea for the incoming Wing Commander’s Wife at Malmstrom AFB, a SAC Base.  It was fascinating to learn how much protocol was required to set up a list of pourers’ for this tea – my job.

(2) being responsible for a number of types of craft projects to be sold at a fund raising event for the Officers’ Wives Club at Edwards AFB. I taught classes, and held workshops and stored all of the completed projects in my home.

(3)  volunteering at the Armed Forces Hostess Association in the Pentagon.  This was a group of officers’ wives from all branches of the service who helped people who were moving into the Washington, DC area and to other bases in the continental US and overseas.  Their motto was “If we do not know the answer, we will find out.” and

(4) being asked to be a VIP Hostess at the Air Force Officers’ Wives’ Club of Washington, DC.”

During the Vietnam years, Sam was in school at UCLA and in Research and Development.  When asked if she felt any animosity or regret because she was an Air Force wife, Linda says,

“We did not face any problems with the public in regards to the war. Sam did have to change the name of his Ph.D. dissertation at UCLA to take away any military connotation that the title conveyed. This step precluded any arousal of anti-war activists that were present on the UCLA campus. “ Sam agrees.

Sam with a colonel at Command and Staff College

When asked to sum up her 20+ year career with the Air Force, Linda replies,

“The best thing about being a military wife was meeting so many wonderful military people who have lived all over the world.  These people became a part of a close military family in a very short period of time. People become friends very quickly in the military, because they do not have much time together. It was also very interesting to have the opportunity to live in different places.

I was very fortunate not to have to be separated from my husband for protracted periods of time or have the worry about him being deployed to a war zone.  It took a great deal of courage for those who did. The worst part of being a military wife was seeing friends go off to war and not return. “

When asked what qualities a good military spouse needs, Linda quickly replies,

“You need to be friendly, outgoing, helpful, flexible and courageous. “

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