Unaccompanied Orders - to Go or Stay?

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11 MILITARY REC SITES FOR YOUR NEXT VACATION

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Welcome to The Great Place! You have orders to Fort Hood, Texas, one of the largest military installations in the country. Fort Hood lives up to the saying, "Everything is bigger in Texas." You will see this with the vast spaces, houses, CAV patches, as well as great traditions you will come to love.

What do you need to know before you purchase those cowboy boots and head to the Lone Star state? See below for a list of pertinent information, unique customs, and a list of local points of interest all within your reach, then head over to PCSgrades.com to start your housing research or get connected with an A-graded REALTOR!

WHERE IS FORT HOOD?

First things first, Fort Hood is centrally located in Texas about an hour north of Austin and 3 hours south of Dallas. The base is enormous and spans 3 cities when including the training areas, but the central city that houses Fort Hood is Killeen. Harker Heights is to the east and Copperas Cove is to the west, rounding out the other parts of the post. The training and cantonment area combined to cover a whopping 340 square miles, rivaling most of America's larger cities. Fort Hood is also the largest single-site employer in the entire state of Texas with an estimated 45,414 assigned service members and 8,909 civilian employees. That means lots of people, lots of traffic, all converging in one area every day.

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You have orders to Southeast Arizona! Living out west may be going home for you or, like many military families, it might be a brand new adventure. Living in a desert climate can be quite a different experience if you have never done it before. Knowledge of Arizona geography is usually limited to the Grand Canyon, Phoenix and maybe Tucson. In fact, if you have orders to Fort Huachuca (Sierra Vista), you might have to really search the map. Southeast of Tucson you say? Is there really something southeast of Tucson in the US? Sure enough, and it's called "High Desert" which is something you may not even know exists! We have put together some information we hope will help you learn more about this desert area you are about to call home!

IMPORTANT INFO

Snowbirds – Arizona has a huge retirement community. From military retirees to golfers, there is a definite influx of an older generation when the snow starts hitting the northern states. It isn't a huge deal as rush hour traffic isn't that bad to start with in most areas, with the exception of the Phoenix area. The real challenge is that the base pharmacies are not staffed for these military retirees, so starting in October there are generally longer lines. Oh, and for those who are looking for off-season tee times, that happens in July in Arizona.

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Maybe you've been able to avoid the assignment for several years, or have been dying to move to the area, but now the orders are official! If you are depending on a typical duty station experience, you may be disappointed. Most agree the National Capital Region is unlike any duty station you've had in the past.

Get ready to enjoy this unique experience full of history, politics, inside the beltway traditions and patriotism like you've never seen before! After you read the rundown of the Nation's Capital below, head to PCSgrades.com for neighborhood reviews with photos and maps to help you pick the perfect part of town for you.

WHERE IS THE PENTAGON?

While you may hear people say they are PCSing to Washington D.C. for an assignment at the Pentagon, this unique building is actually located across the Potomac River in Arlington, Virginia. You've seen large bases and posts but when you park at the Pentagon, it gets tricky remembering your parking space among the 67 acres of parking lots, which accommodate over 8,700 vehicles.

The Pentagon itself is indeed impressive. This concrete structure featuring seven floors, two below ground and five above, is the largest office building in the world, covering 34 acres. It is double the size of the Empire State Building. Nearly 30,000 military and civilian employees share 691 water fountains and 284 bathrooms. There are no elevators in the Pentagon. Ramps accommodate those moving from floor to floor. Pentagon tours are offered which are always a hit with out of town guests.

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PCSing to coastal California is a dream assignment to some: beautiful weather, an abundance of things to see and do, and the Pacific ocean! And yes… there is also a higher cost of living than many areas you may have lived before. It means being stationed at the home of the 1st Marine Division, the oldest, largest and most decorated division in the United States Marine Corps. It's a large installation, spanning more than one county, and can be a different experience for many military families. So let's dive in and explore your new duty station, then head over to PCSgrades.com to for reviews for base housing, neighborhoods, and more!

WHERE IS CAMP PENDLETON

Camp Pendleton is nestled up against the Pacific Ocean, in between Los Angeles and San Diego, and sandwiched between Oceanside to the south, San Clemente to the north, and Fallbrook to the east. It boasts a coastal climate, with average low temps dipping into the 40s and highs reaching into the 80s.

Interstate 5 runs the entire length of Camp Pendleton against the Pacific, and Interstate 15 runs alongside the base to the east. I5 and I15 are connected south of the base by highways 76 and 78.

The Coaster is a commuter train that runs from Oceanside straight through San Diego and travels right next to the water. The Sprinter is a commuter train that runs from Oceanside inland to Escondido.

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So you've accepted orders and are PCS'ing to Texas A&M at College Station. Gig'Em! Here's the information you need to make your A&M tour rock:

PERTINENT INFO

College Station is one half of a set of twin cities known as Bryan-College Station. The twin cities are the 11th largest metropolitan area in Texas, but you wouldn't know it from the town itself, as it is cleverly disguised as a small college town surrounded by farmland and ranches.

Bryan-College Station (BCS) rests quietly in Central Texas, roughly 2 hours north of Houston, 2 hours east of Austin, and 3 hours south of Dallas. It boasts a subtropical climate, with average low temps dipping into the 40s and highs reaching into the triple digits.

The local area sees rain year round, with July averaging 2 inches of rain, and October averaging about 5 inches. Winters are mild, lasting approximately 2 months, and summers are long, generally warming up early March and staying hot until mid-October.

BCS is smack dab in between I-10, I-35, and I-45, with highways 6, 21, and 190 branching out from the BCS area to meet the interstates.

There is a small local airport, Easterwood Airport. It regularly has flights to and from Dallas and Houston and is open from 4am to 11pm.

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Your Fort Belvoir Area Guide

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The Fort Belvoir homepage states: "A list of the organizations who call Fort Belvoir home reads like a 'Who's Who' of the Department of Defense." Often in the shadow of the Pentagon, there is perhaps no other Army installation in the world that can compare to Fort Belvoir's diverse mix of commands, activities and agencies. This northern Virginia military installation provides logistical, intelligence, and administrative support to a wide range of United States military organizations.

Here is out list of all the things you need to know before relocating to northern Virginia.

WHERE IS FORT BELVOIR?

The main post is located off Interstate 95 (exit 166), 12 miles south of Washington, D.C., 9 miles south of Alexandria, 7 miles north of Woodbridge, and 5 miles west of Lorton.

Fort Belvoir is home to nearly twice as many workers as the Pentagon and is the largest employer in Fairfax County. The post is actually comprised of three geographically distinct properties: the main post, Davison Army Airfield, and the Ft. Belvoir North Area.

Agencies headquartered at Ft. Belvoir include: the Defense Logistics Agency, the Defense Acquisition University, the Defense Contract Audit Agency, the Defense Technical Information Center, the United States Army Intelligence and Security Command, the United States Army Military Intelligence Readiness Command, the Missile Defense Agency, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, all agencies of the United States Department of Defense.

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