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.
FORT BELVOIR HOUSING
On-post housing is privatized with two to five bedrooms available in new and historic housing in 15 different villages. Homes are available for military families from all branches of service assigned to local duty stations to include Fort Belvoir, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, and the Pentagon. Select homes are also available for geographical bachelors and single soldiers E6 and above. All homes offer dishwashers, refrigerators, high-speed Internet connection and electric washer/dryer connections.
If you have lived in on-post housing on Ft. Belvoir, we would love to hear from you. Leave a review of your housing experience here.
There are many options for housing off-post. But get ready for sticker shock as the D.C. suburbs feature 7 of the country's 10 richest counties. Single family homes, townhouses, condos, and apartments can be found in both urban and rural settings a short distance from post.
NOVA (NORTHERN VIRGINIA)
- Fairfax County, Virginia is the largest county in the Washington, D.C. area. It falls inside and outside the beltway and is home to George Mason University.
- Arlington and the city of Alexandria, Virginia are inside the beltway.
- Prince William County, Virginia includes Woodbridge, Dumfries, Haymarket, Occoquan, Lake Ridge, Manassas, and Manassas City.
- Loudoun County, Virginia includes Sterling, Ashburn, Potomac Falls, Countryside, Middleburg, South Riding, Hamilton and Dulles International Airport.
Prices vary widely depending on the county you choose to live in. If you work with a PCSgrades reviewed realtor, you'll find there is a rental or mortgage to fit every BAH.
FORT BELVOIR WEATHER
There are four distinct seasons here. Winters are relatively mild with an average snow fall of 15.4 inches with three quarters of it falling in January and February. In the spring, people come from around the world to see the Cherry Blossoms along the Tidal Basin in downtown D.C..
Summers are hot and humid with temps often rising above 100 in July and August. Mild temps tend to stick around in September and October, but by Halloween the fall foliage is in full view with the vivid colors of autumn.
Hurricanes and Nor'easters can affect the area. While not common, NOVA has had a few tornadoes. And snow, well, some years there are only a few inches and others see larger snowfalls of over a foot. It doesn't matter how much, snow usually cripples northern Virginia.
BAH & COST OF LIVING
Unless you are coming from San Diego or Hawaii, you most likely will have sticker shock when you arrive here. Just about everything will be more expensive. The current housing market is also highly competitive. MostPCSgrades' A-graded Realtors agree that it is an excellent time to buy. Additionally, while sales prices have continued to climb, mortgage interest rates remain at historic low levels.
Median sale prices completely vary throughout Northern Virginia, D.C. and even southern Maryland. The average sales price in Fairfax County (NOVA) is $560,919; this is up over last year. Click here to look at neighborhoods and realtors in the area around Fort Belvoir.
There is one school on post – Fort Belvoir Elementary School. Two off-post public schools include: Walt Whitman Middle School and Mount Vernon High School.
Fort Belvoir Community Hospital is northern Virginia's home for world-class military healthcare with satellite health centers in Fairfax and Dumfries. The post also features the Fort Belvoir Commissary, Post Exchange, Class Six store and two joint service spouses clubs: the Belvoir Officer Spouses Club (BOSC) and the Belvoir Enlisted Spouses Club (BESC).
There are also five state-of-the-art Community Centers on post that offer free Internet access, copying and faxing services, along with free meeting and party facilities. There is a free community pool located in Woodlawn Village along with picnic pavilions, fitness trails, basketball and volleyball courts, a dog park, and playgrounds. Other amenities of living on-post include: an 18-hole golf course, a marina, field house, bowling center, movie theatre, Officer's Club and pool, and skate park.
CULTURE & CUSTOMS
If you want to venture off-post, you won't be disappointed! From mid-September until Thanksgiving, and again from about mid-January to June, Congress is in session. This means the hotels are full of guests and the restaurants and bars are doing a booming business. From mid-March through June, families and school groups pack the Tidal Basin to see the cherry blossoms and enjoy Washington's monuments. This is also high season for protest marches.
May features a month-long celebration called Passport DC, which showcases more than 70 embassies and cultural organizations with tours and open houses. A summer highlight is the annual Fourth of July festivities. There is an Independence Day Parade along Constitution Avenue, A Capitol Fourth Concert featuring world renowned musicians and singers on the U.S. Capitol west lawn. And of course, fireworks over the monuments! Ft. Belvoir hosts a Fourth of July concert on-post as well as fireworks after dark.
From seeing all the names on the Vietnam Memorial wall to climbing the massive steps to the Lincoln Memorial to visiting the National 9/11 Memorial at the Pentagon, Washington's monuments never get old! If you are lucky enough to have the chance to volunteer either at the airport or at the World War II Memorial during an Honor Flight, do it! Bring the kids! It is a special experience. You will never forget seeing these brave men and women visiting their memorial for the very first and for many the last time.
One of Ft. Belvoir's largest events of the year is the annual Oktoberfest, a four-day festival highlighting authentic German food, beverages, music, and dancing. Fun events geared towards the whole family include: a carnival, Volksmarch 10K Walk, and a Craft Show.
Traffic in and around Washington D.C. is the worst or near the worst in the nation according to most traffic studies. A typical NOVA commuter spends an additional 82 hours behind the wheel annually due to traffic delays which is why many commuters use public transportation. Families choosing to live off-post often select housing in Fairfax Station, Lorton, Woodbridge, Alexandria, Springfield and Burke to avoid daily traffic snarls.
Flying in and out of the area is relatively easy. Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport is approximately 15 miles from Ft. Belvoir. Dulles International Airport is 33 miles from post and Baltimore/Washington International Airport is 55 miles away.
Variety is the key word when it comes to cuisine in the northern Virginia/Washington D.C. area. With an international flavor and the fact that many of those living in and around D.C. are originally from somewhere else, the cuisine is eclectic to say the least. In the mood for Salvadoran food…it's here! Want to try Ethiopian cuisine? We have it! How about Indonesian? Yep! Regional specialties include: blue crabs from Maryland, peanuts, and country ham from Virginia.
Despite being close to a major urban area, there are many outdoor areas to enjoy including:
FT BELVOIR MARINA
The beautiful Potomac River takes boaters past Mt. Vernon, the home of George Washington, and north to the nation's capital, offering a view of the city's monuments and parks.
MASON NECK STATE PARK
The park in southern Fairfax County offers hiking trails, a large picnic area, a playground, a car-top canoe launch, bicycle rentals and bird watching.
GREAT FALLS NATIONAL PARK
800 acres along the banks of the Potomac River in northern Fairfax County, this park offers whitewater kayaking and canoeing, fifteen miles of scenic hiking trails, (five of which are multi-use for horseback riding, hiking, and biking), and rock climbing on the cliffs in Mather Gorge. The falls total 76 feet (20 m) over a series of major cascades.
CHESAPEAKE & OHIO CANAL NATIONAL HISTORIC PARK
This park dates back to the 18th century. The canal and towpath trail extends from Georgetown, Washington, D.C. to Cumberland, Maryland, a distance of 184.5 miles. There is outdoor recreation, picnicking, bicycling, fishing, boating and hiking available.
GEORGETOWN WATERFRONT PARK
Located along the Potomac River, this park offers picnicking, bicycling and skating.
ROCK CREEK PARK
Rock Creek Park extends 12 miles from the Potomac River to the border of Maryland. The National Zoo is also located within Rock Creek Park. There is a lot to do including: picnicking, hiking, biking, rollerblading, tennis, fishing, and horseback riding. Additionally, there are concerts, planetarium shows, animal talks, exploratory hikes, crafts, and junior ranger programs.
FUN DAY TRIPS
Annapolis, Maryland – 32 miles; 1-hour drive – Gorgeous town, quaint restaurants and the Naval Academy! St. Michael's, Maryland – 79 miles; 1.5-hour drive – Maryland's Eastern Shore features crabs and scenic water views like no other!
Gettysburg (84 miles), Hershey (130 miles), Lancaster (120 Miles) Pennsylvania – Three unique Pennsylvania cities within 3 hours of the metro area – Relive the civil war in Gettysburg Learn the unique story of Milton Hersey and immerse yourself in the life of the Amish in Lancaster, PA.
Shenandoah National Park & Luray Caverns, Virginia – 3 hour drive; 120 miles – Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, west of Washington, D.C. Skyline Drive is the only public road running through the Shenandoah National Park. Nearby Luray Caverns is the largest series of caverns in the east. This eerie underground world of stalactites and stalagmites is worth a day trip from NOVA.
Richmond, Virginia – 108 miles; 2-hour drive – Virginia State Capital with a thriving restaurant scene and craft beer breweries. Lewes/Rehoboth Beach, Delaware – 121 miles; 2.5-hour drive – What can we say? It's the beach! Bring your lotion and your bathing suit and enjoy! Chincoteague Island, Virginia – 170 miles; 3.5 hour-drive – Do not miss watching the ponies at the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge on the quieter side of the Eastern Shore.
This post sponsored by PCSgrades.
Yeah! You got orders to (insert foreign country overseas)! You can already picture your kids in the international school, speaking with cute little accents and wearing local garments. Adorbs. You've got your housing picked out, adventures planned and passport photos taken. You're ready for your epic move ... except for that 13 hour plane ride. Have you wrapped your head around that yet? Before you grab for a paper bag and start hyperventilating, use our travel hacks to help make the emotional turbulence you're experiencing a little lighter.
We've all said it: "We'll drive. It won't be that bad." We picture the adventure, the memories, the nostalgia of car trips when we were younger.
But if we're really being honest with ourselves, think back to those car trips. Someone was crying. Someone was puking. Someone was whining. That person very well may have been your poor mother. True story, my mom once got out and walked along the highway when all six of us kids wouldn't stop fighting. A long car trip can be daunting, but with our tips and tricks they don't need to be.
WE ALL HAVE OUR SHARE OF HORROR STORIES WHEN IT COMES TO MILITARY MOVING!
Name the most disgusting item erroneously packed by your movers… for me it was used coffee grounds and of course, trash. For others, I've heard everything from wet towels to dirty diapers. I've caught movers raiding my fridge, lounging on my mattress in my front yard, and throwing out items that they've broken. Raise your hand (or have a drink) if you ever had packers show up late (or not at all). Ever had packers get into a shouting match among themselves as they were packing your china? Or have you caught your movers throwing boxes down the stairs to the basement? That would be me!
With each military move, there are "lessons learned". For instance, I won't go into great detail but let's just say after watching one packer go directly from using the restroom back to packing my kitchen without washing his hands, we now use gigantic ziplock bags to "pre-pack" all my kitchen utensils. A packers' bare flesh has never again touched one of my kitchen utensils.
My family's last military move was by far the shortest, only 1½ miles up the road. We were moving from a rental to a home we purchased. It was by far the worst in terms of damage and overall angst. I think because we were only "moving up the road" the pack job left a lot to be desired. I found one box of dishes which had not one piece of wrapping paper! Instead two throw pillows from my family room were used as a buffer! Amazingly, nothing was broken! Go figure!
When I heard glass shatter in the moving truck, I asked one of the guys what shattered.
There are any number of reasons why in a given situation renting might be better than buying or vice versa. For military families, it might make more sense to buy at one duty station and then rent at the next. Up for consideration with each PCS is whether to buy or rent, to stay on-base or off. In making these decisions, there are numerous pros and cons to consider.
PROS TO BUYING
- Purchasing the right home can be a great financial investment that can grow in value over time.
- Tax deductions such as mortgage interest and property taxes can greatly reduce your overall income tax burden if you itemize.
- Being a homeowner can give you pride of ownership and a sense of stability, rare in the military life which can seem nomadic at times.
- A mortgage payment that is lower than your BAH can result in a boost to your savings.
- You can decorate however you want! Goodbye white walls! Hello, Color!
- Anyone can stay with you at any time. So it is not a problem when your Mom or sister comes for an extended stay during a deployment or following a PCS.
- You can do (almost) whatever you want….host a late night party, plant a garden, knock a wall down!
- There are no security or pet deposits when you buy a home.
- You have the opportunity to become a landlord when military orders arrive and you have to move. Your home can become an investment property, providing a source of income which can partially or totally offset your mortgage, taxes, and insurance payments.
While retired military Space A travel is a privilege, there are some retirees that do not have this privilege. There are different categories of retirees, some are eligible for Space A and some are not. But there are efforts to change the eligibility requirements.
For a retiree to be eligible for Space A travel they must possess a 'Blue' DD Form 2 (Military ID card). This includes those that are medically retired. Their dependents are also allowed to travel with them and must bring along their ID cards. All dependents should be enrolled in DEERS.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR RETIRED MILITARY SPACE A TRAVEL?
There are plenty of rumors out there saying that ALL retirees are eligible. This is not true. If you are 100% disabled and you only possess a DD Form 1173, or the new DD Form 2765 ID cards, you are not entitled to travel on Space A. Also, if you possess the brown ID card with DAVPRM (Disabled Veteran Permanent) in the bottom right, then you too are not entitled to retired military space a travel Space A travel privileges.
Dependents of retirees are not allowed to travel without the retiree. If the retiree dies, then the dependents no longer have Space A privileges.
If you are a member of the Guard or Reserves with a 'Red" DD Form 2 you can travel through CONUS (Continental United States), to, from, and between Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and Puerto Rico. Also, if you are active duty for more than 30 consecutive days, Guardsmen and Reservists may fly anywhere that Space A flies.
Dependents of the Guard and Reserves are not authorized to fly on Space A until the member reaches the age of 60. At that time, they will be in the same category as a regular retiree, Category 6. Retired Guardsmen and Reservists who have completed their 20 years but are not old enough to collect their retired pay are considered to be in a "gray area".
AN ACT OF CONGRESS
There have been attempts to change the eligibility of all of the above retirees and dependents.
The first Bill to be submitted to the House of Representatives was House Bill 4164 aka Space-Available Act of 2012. This bill sought to authorize the Secretary of Defense to establish a program to provide transportation on Department of Defense (DOD) aircraft on a space-available basis for (1) active duty and reserve members holding a valid Uniformed Services Identification and Privilege Card; (2) retired members who, but for not attaining age 60, would be eligible for military retired pay; (3) an un-remarried widow or widower of an active or reserve member; and (3) certain dependents of members described above. Allows the Secretary to establish an order of priority based on considerations of military needs and readiness.
This Bill was sent to the Subcommittee on Readiness in March of 2012 where it has sat with no action.
Earlier this year, a measure to establish a space-available transportation priority for veterans of the Armed Forces who have a service-connected, permanent disability rated as total was introduced in the house. That bill HR 936 was referred to the House Subcommittee on Readiness.
HAVE YOUR VOICE HEARD
How can you help? Write your Congressman. Make your voice known.
The Gray Area Retirees Facebook group was created to talk about these problems and to try to get the changes implemented.
Space-A eligibility is sometimes confusing and false information is passed around often. Check out the resources in this article for any updates.
PCSgrades.com is a review platform for military and veteran families. Leave a review of your prior duty station and read the reviews of where you are PCSing to. Home is where the military sends us and together we can make a difference!
This post sponsored by PCSgrades.