TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Military life can be stressful and provide numerous challenges to families. For dual military couples, where both spouses serve in the military, finding the right balance between serving the mission and caring for family can be difficult.
“The military wants so much from you and the mission will always come first,” said Tech. Sgt. Michael Blake, a 60th Security Forces Squadron flight chief. “You have to find a way to balance everything and that can be tough.”
Michael has served 14 years in the U.S. Air Force and he has spent the past five years in a dual military marriage with his wife, Staff Sgt. Linda Blake, 60th SFS assistant noncommissioned officer in charge of the Visitor Control Center.
During his career, the father of three has served in a variety of positions at three bases from Korea to the United States. During his first assignment at Travis Air Force Base from 2007 to 2013 he met Linda, who enlisted in the Air Force in June 2010.
It was an awkward first encounter.
At the time, she was told to go to the 615th Contingency Response Group to meet with squadron personnel. She saw then-Staff Sgt. Blake in the hall and asked where she should go. Michael didn’t have the nicest response, Linda said.
“Maybe he was having a bad day,” she said.
“I was a little stressed out,” said Michael with a laugh.
The two didn’t speak for a year. In February 2012, Linda and Michael were completing pre-deployment training in North Carolina. The two were assigned to the same fire team and had to work together during several 12-hour shifts.
“To help us stay awake and alert we talked to one another and I soon realized he wasn’t a jerk,” said Linda. “We talked about everything from work to family and what we do in our off-time. We also talked about that first encounter. Michael apologized for what he said and I apologized for not giving him another chance.”
Shortly after the training was over, Linda and Michael started dating and after about a year passed, Michael asked Linda to marry him during a visit to San Francisco.
“I was so happy with her and I always wanted to be around her,” he said. “I never want to lose her. She is my everything.”
The couple said communication is essential to making their marriage work.
“We have to plan things,” Michael said. “We try to plan a date night once a week which usually turns into more like once a month, but we always do little things for one another.”
“Date night may be simply cooking dinner at home, just the two of us and watching a movie while the kids are sleeping,” added Linda. “We also make time for church every Sunday.”
Linda said ensuring their relationship is strong helps her and her husband support the mission.
“We are supporting something much bigger than ourselves,” she said.
While the Blakes are committed to serving, they said living up to the Air Force core value of service before self can be difficult.
“There may be a demand for both of us to be in the same place at the same time and we have to work with our bosses to try and work something out so one of us can take care of the kids,” said Linda.
The Blakes welcomed their first child, Lilliana, into the world in June 2013. About a month later they left Travis for F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming, where the family would grow again. In June 2015, the Blakes welcomed their second daughter, Layla, followed by their son, Michael Jr., in November 2016.
Like most parents, the Blakes want the best for their children, however, due to the high operations tempo of military life, they don’t always have the luxury of time.
The hardest thing for me as a mother was to find my children a provider I thought was best for them before I had to return to work, said Linda. “Some civilian families have the freedom to take advantage of stay at home moms. While some people in the military can make that decision too, for me, my Airmen are also a part of my family and I want to be there for them as well.”
“As a supervisor, I enjoy mentoring Airmen, even those who may have made a bad decision and may not have had good mentors,” she said. “Some may be depressed and others may be suicidal. It’s important for me to continue serving, to mentor them so they know better days are ahead.”
While the Blakes were assigned to F.E. Warren there were times when Michael and Linda worked opposite security shifts requiring them to be away from home for up to five days at a time.
“We would high-five one another on the way in or out and say ‘Hey, dinner is in the oven, make sure you pick up the kids,” said Michael. “We had to take advantage of extended care providers and I often picked up my kids after I got off work at 10 or 11 p.m.”
During this time, the Blakes relied heavily on a support system of friends who found themselves in the same situation.
“We had a close group of friends and we would hang out every Friday night we had off,” said Linda. “We would go bowling or out to dinner and if we ever needed anything we always supported one another.”
The Blakes arrived for their second tour at Travis in June 2018. Shortly after in-processing into the 60th SFS, they learned they were about to be assigned to the same shift on the same flight.
“We told them that can’t happen because we have to take care of three children,” said Linda. “I was kind of shocked by our leadership’s response. They immediately took steps to work everything out so we were able to support the mission and our family.”
“The leadership at the 60th SFS worked with us, said Linda. This led to me working days at the VCC and working swing shifts periodically while Michael worked nights.”
Up next for the Blakes is a trip to Disneyland over their children’s winter break from school.
“We are really looking forward to it,” they said.