Darrell Todd Maurina
By Darrell Todd Maurina
CANNON AIR FORCE BASE — For most newcomers to Cannon, New Mexico is a long way from home. That means many young spouses of military personnel stationed at Cannon have no family in the area and no friends except those on base.
Top that situation off with a deployment or a special assignment that takes a husband or wife out of the home, and a young military spouse can easily feel overwhelmed with problems and have nowhere to turn.
The Air Force isn’t going to stop training for combat, but a number of military spouses at Cannon work together in the Cannon Officers’ Spouses Club to make coping with military life easier.
That concern starts right at the top, with encouragement from club advisor Barbara Yates, wife of wing commander Col. Robert “Rowdy” Yates.
Barbara Yates said she knows the risk of family loneliness from personal experience. As the daughter of an Air Force master sergeant and later as the wife of an Air Force pilot, she said she remembers not even knowing where her husband was or what he was doing during a period when he was working on a secret fighter plane program.
“Serving in the military — all across the board, it’s a sacrifice,” she said. “If they are going to stay in a long time, it is something they need to understand.”
To help newcomers to the Air Force and newcomers to Cannon appreciate what they are getting into, Barbara Yates said she makes a point of coming to each “Right Start” event at Cannon, a twice-per-month event that introduces new personnel to what Cannon has to offer.
“I meet with all the spouses coming in brand new to try to help learn what their needs are,” she said. “If people come to a base (and) they don’t get involved, they’ll just sit here two, three, six months and hate it. We need to let them know they are welcome here.”
While the Officers’ Spouses Club is only one of many service organizations at the base, about a fifth of the officers’ spouses have joined and Yates said she wants to see that number rise. The group provides fun and fellowship for women, offers childcare for children, sponsors service-oriented activities for the military community, and raises about $15,000 each year for college scholarships to military spouses and their children.
Perhaps most important, Yates said, the group helps build friendship networks so spouses have somewhere to turn when they need help.
That isn’t the way the military always worked, and club board member Paula Davis remembers the old days were not better days when it came to family life.
“It used to be said, if they wanted you to have a wife, they’d issue you one,” Davis said.
“The military has become much more aware of the role of the family and the role they play,” Davis said. “Now they have all these organizations to support the spouses.”
Board member Andrea Pixley said the club also helps spouses make friends on base outside their service member’s military unit.
“The operations group often doesn’t know what is going on in the medical group, and this brings all of us together,” Pixley said.