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Your Fort Wainwright Area Guide

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Alaska has been called the "Last Frontier" and being stationed here means you are in for a unique experience.

Fort Wainwright is considered an overseas tour. Additionally, if your dependents want to accompany you to Alaska, your PCS orders must say "concurrent travel" and each family member's name must be listed on your orders.

The mission here is to deploy combat-ready forces to support joint military operations around the world. The major units at Fort Wainwright currently are the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division and the U.S. Army Alaska Aviation Task Force.

Ft. Wainwright is also home to Medical Department Activity-Alaska, Dental Activity-Alaska, and Bassett Army Community Hospital.

WHERE IS FORT WAINWRIGHT?

Fort Wainwright is located in the North Star Borough of Fairbanks, the second largest city in Alaska. Centrally located, it is 365 miles north of Anchorage.


FORT WAINWRIGHT HOUSING

If there is a duty station where a military family should strive to live in on-post housing, Ft. Wainwright is it! Given the harsh winters, the heating costs, etc.; losing one's entire BAH as a trade-off to live in a safe, well-cared for neighborhood, with maintenance, landscaping, trash removal and road plowing all taken care of is thought to be well worth it.

The North Haven master-planned communities offer a variety of homes and neighborhood amenities designed to meet your family's needs. Take a look at what other mil-fams had to say about base housing. Read reviews and see photos now at PCSgrades.com.

Click Here to see what other military families have to say about Ft Wainwright post housing.

FORT WAINWRIGHT WEATHER

COLD! The interior of Alaska is a unique area to live when it comes to weather. During the summer months (June-August) highs will range in the 60-70 degree range. In September the temperatures plummet.

It is not uncommon for this area to get snow during early fall. Usually, the first snow that sticks on the ground is in October and the snowiest months of the year are from Oct-Dec with the temperatures ranging from an average of 30 degrees in October to an average of 4 degrees in December.

January starts the hardest time of year as far as weather goes, with an average temp of -3 degrees but can see an excess of -50 degrees. February is also cold but usually, has an average of 10 degrees. The sun begins to shine in March bringing forth the 'breakup season.' Alaska does not have a spring season. It literally goes from 3-4 feet of snow one week, and in a couple of weeks, all of it is gone! Winter lasts from October to April.

BAH & COST OF LIVING

You've probably heard Alaska is one of the most expensive places to live in the U.S. The good news is Fairbanks has one of the lowest cost-of-living rates in the state. It is on a par with Portland, Oregon. PCSgrades can help you find an awesome REALTOR today! Visit PCSgrades.com to get connected!

The BAH rates for Fort Wainwright decreased by more than 9% percent over the last year, ranking 22nd highest out of all army bases.

ON-POST AMENITIES

There is a full serviced commissary on post, as well as a chapel, Armed Services YMCA, veterinary services, and the Bassett Army Community Hospital.

The Fort Wainwright Community Spouses' Club is open to spouses of active-duty and retired military members in all branches of the armed services who are assigned, attached or living at Fort Wainwright, as well as active military members and Department of Defense civilians and their spouses.

The Fort Wainwright CDC offers full-day (6 weeks to 5 years old) and part-day preschool programs. Hourly Care is provided at the Soldier and Family Assistance Center.

The SKIES Unlimited program offers children's classes in martial arts, dance, sports, art, music, and language.

SCHOOLS

Schools are off post. The Fairbanks North Star Borough School District serves more than 14,300 students in 35 schools.

CULTURE & CUSTOMS

Sunlight is not always a given. During the winter months, it can go down to as little as 3-4 hours of sunlight a day, culminating in the shortest day of the year around the 20-23rd of December. This day is known as the winter solstice. Gaining 17 minutes of sunlight per day until there is sunshine around the clock during the summer solstice, which varies between June 20-22. And then the reverse occurs. Often the summer seems like one long day because the sun doesn't actually set again until August. But having the darkness in winter can be a blessing around Christmas time as everyone just leaves their Christmas lights on around the clock making the town into a picturesque Winter Wonderland.

Ft. Wainwright and the local Fairbanks area are one of Alaska's hidden gems. If you like the outdoors or seeing untouched land and animals, this is the place to live. On any given day you can enjoy the view of the Aurora lights and a visit from the neighborhood moose! There is plenty of hunting, fishing, camping and winter sports available that you won't get anywhere else! Fort Wainwright is a great area for enjoying hockey games in the winter, camping and berry picking in the summer.

IT'S NOT THE BOONIES

Some favorite local restaurants include The Cookie Jar, Loose Moose Café, Silver Gultch (Fox, AK), Sam's Sourdough Café, The Chowder House and Alaska Salmon Bake.

Some great places to get your hair/nails done: Elements Salon, Shear Heaven Salon, L.A. Nails. Shopping offers a nice variety of stores to include: Old Navy, Barnes & Noble, Walmart, Home Depot, Fred Meyers, Sears, Lowes, Safeway and the Bentley Mall (about 6-8 shops).

AREA ATTRACTIONS

RIVERBOAT DISCOVERY

Enjoy a relaxing, entertaining boat cruise of the Chena and Tanana Rivers, including a guided walking tour of the Chena Indian Village. Additionally, you can see Susan Butcher's champion dogs, the wedding of the rivers, and Dixie Alexander's Athabascan art.

AURORA BOREALIS LODGE

Nothing like viewing the northern lights in style and comfort! Located 21 miles north of Fairbanks, the Aurora Borealis Lodge is ideally situated for 360-degree viewing & photography. From late August through early April, they offer nightly aurora tours with round-trip transfers from Fairbanks.

SLED DOG ADVENTURES IN FAIRBANKS

Exciting dogsled rides, mushing school & tours with Alaskan guides, what could be better? Arctic gear supplied.

CHENA HOT SPRINGS RESORT

Experience the natural healing waters of the 105-degree outdoor hot springs rock lake with the northern lights dancing above your head at this memorable resort. Families can enjoy the indoor swimming pool and hot tubs. No other place in Alaska offers both, and they are open year-round.

FAIRBANKS CHILDREN'S MUSEUM

The museum offers interactive exhibits designed for young people and activities such as role-playing, science, art and crafts, building, physical movement, and water play. These events are specifically designed to create a playful learning environment.

FAIRBANKS CURLING CLUB

They like to say "100 Years & Still Rockin'". An Olympic staple, this is the oldest club devoted to any sport in Alaska.

This post is 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.

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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.

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Nordwood theme, Unsplash

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!

LESSONS LEARNED

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.

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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.
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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.