Dr. Linda Hardy

Linda Hardy

By Christine Baldwin, AFRH-W Librarian

Dr. Linda Hardy was born in South Dakota and was raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Her fondest memories were attending powwows and falling asleep at night listening to the sound of the drums and singers echoing from a pow wow being held at the bottom of the hill where she lived.

In 1968, Linda joined the US Navy. (Her father served in the US Navy as a Fireman First Class during the Second World War.) She attended Recruit Training at Bainbridge, MD. Linda proudly proclaims she was originally a Navy WAVE (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service). She had to leave the service 9 months later because she had gotten married and pregnant and during that era, women could not have dependents. However, in 1976, while working at the Ventura County, CA Sheriff’s Department Crime Lab, a forensic scientist who was a Major in the US Army Reserves encouraged her to join the US Naval Reserves as a part-time job. When she spoke with the recruiter, after reading over her DD-214 and her resume, he turned to her and began to say, “How would you like to come back…” and before he could finish his sentence with “on active duty”, Linda quickly said “yes”.  Less than one month later, she found herself back on active duty in the US Naval Reserve TAR Program at NAS Point Mugu, CA.

Linda’s duties as a Personnelman included many tasks, some of which were maintenance of enlisted service records, preparation of advancement examination cycles; classification duties and career counseling. Through her studies to provide better counseling for her customers, she included information on the Naval Home in Gulfport, MS.  Two questions on both her E5 and E6 advancement exam would ultimately pertain to the Naval Home. For example, one was: “What is the title of the person who runs the Naval Home?”  The answer was “Governor”. Never staying in one duty station very long, Linda’s duties took her from California to Maine and many points in between. Linda also served one tour of sea duty onboard the USS BOWEN (FFT-1079), home ported out of Naval Station, Staten Island, NY. She was the first female Chief Petty Officer to “man the rails” of a US Navy warship in a foreign port.

While serving as a Naval instructor, Linda found her passion, that of being a teacher. She received her B.B.A. in 1989 and her Masters of Science in Management in 1991. However, all came to a full stop when she voluntarily “terminated shore duty” to go to sea. While serving aboard the USS BOWEN (FFT-1079), she was the only female Chief Petty Officer onboard and the only enlisted crewmember to qualify as Junior Officer of the Deck (Underway). However, after her ship had gone through two Home Port changes, a Change of Command and a Decommissioning in a three year period, Linda found herself advanced to Master Chief Petty Officer. One week after being notified of her selection, she was handed a “Command” Application. A week and three “selection boards” later, she was a Command Master Chief. Twelve out of her thirty years of service were as a Command Master Chief at one command or another. 75% of her career was spent either in operational aviation commands or at commands whose sole purpose was to support Naval aviation squadrons. Her fondest memories of squadrons are of flying in  P-3’s and sitting on the radio equipment box behind the pilot’s seat, holding on the headrest, and peering around his shoulder as the aircraft performed “touch & go’s”. Her final tour of duty was as the Command Master Chief of VP-64, soon to be transitioned to VR-64. The day before the last flight, the Skipper took her on a flight to Maine and back. As they approached home base, he asked for any final requests. Without thinking, she asked for two sets of “touch and go’s”. “Aye-Aye Master Chief,” he replied, and she climbed up on the radio box and felt that magical surge of power as the aircraft landed and quickly took flight once again. It was a bittersweet ending to a thrilling career spent predominately in P-3 Squadrons.  The next morning, the last P-3 lifted off the tarmac, on its way to the bone-yard in Tucson, AZ. As it rose into the sky, Linda stood at attention and saluted the pilot and the aircraft she had loved so deeply. As the pilot ascended, he dipped his left wing to salute her back.

While transitioning VP-64 to VR-64, Linda was also writing her Doctoral Dissertation on Tribally Controlled Colleges. She holds a Doctor of Education in Higher and Adult Education from the University of Memphis. Linda was the first female enlisted member of all the branches of the Armed Forces to have earned a Doctorate while serving on active duty. During her career, she spent her days as a Command Master Chief and her evenings as an Adjunct Professor at local colleges. She retired in 2005.

Adam McLane once wrote, “If you stop dreaming, you are dying.” Linda adds, if you stop learning, you are dying an even worse death. Therefore, she is learning to read, write and speak Korean. Having had the discipline to earn a Doctorate, she feels mastering the Korean Language may be a challenge she can accomplish readily. While browsing through a store in London, she came upon a plaque with a quote from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, “Decide who you want to be, pay the price AND BE WHO YOU WANT TO BE.” She has aspired to live her life by those words ever since that day. While speaking of AFRH-W, Linda said that she found many of the residents had become “like family” to her and the staff bends over backwards to assist you. She honestly feels that to reside at AFRH-W is to be “abundantly blessed.”