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Your Joint Base Charleston Area Guide

Area Guides

You've got orders to South Carolina's Lowcountry!

What exactly does that mean? Coastal Carolina features beautiful beaches, saltwater marshes, southern plantations and a history rich with pirates. One of 12 Department of Defense joint bases, Joint Base Charleston, hosts more than 60 DOD and federal agencies. The total force of over 90,000 Airmen, Sailors, Soldiers, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, civilians, dependents, and retirees is spread across four installations. JB Charleston is home to the 628th Air Base Wing (628 ABW), the host wing for installation support. The air base has four operational groups consisting of 21 squadrons and two wing staff directorates. Below we will dive into the Charleston area and then you can find your perfect neighborhood at PCSgrades.com.

WHERE IS JOINT BASE CHARLESTON?

Joint Base Charleston is 10 miles from downtown Charleston in North Charleston and shares runways with Charleston International Airport. Shared runways for commercial airlines operations are located on the south side of the airfield and general aviation aircraft operations is on the east side

This part of South Carolina, Charleston and surrounding areas, has also become an attractive home for military retirees due in large part to the reasonable cost of living.


JOINT BASE CHARLESTON HOUSING

Hunt Companies manage base housing at JB Charleston. Neighborhoods feature 3- and 4-bedroom homes with screened porches, garages, and easy access to recreational areas, trails, and common spaces. Additional perks include large living rooms, washer/dryer hookups, spacious closets, all major appliances, and air-conditioning. Renters in this pet-friendly community also enjoy complimentary renter's insurance and free utilities.

ON-BASE AMENITIES

Joint Base Charleston is a full-service installation with a Commissary, Child Development Center, bowling center, movie theatre, golf course, fitness and sports center, outdoor recreation center and Morale, Welfare and Recreation.

SCHOOLS

There are no on-base schools for Joint Base Charleston. Three local school districts serve the area; Charleston (CCSD), Dorchester District 2 (DD2), and Berkeley (BCSD) County school districts are all within the commuting area. Where you live, both on-base or off, determines what school your child will attend.

BAH & COST OF LIVING

The cost of living in the Charleston area is slightly higher than the national average. The median home price in the area is $307,100. The average rent for a two-bedroom condo or apartment is $1,466. Need to find a Realtor in the area? Your fellow mil-fams have recommended a few here.

Charleston's unemployment rate tends to run lower than the national rate. The healthcare industry is vibrant with several clinics, hospices, home care services, outpatient care centers, and hospitals including a teaching hospital. The Boeing Company is one of the larger employers in the area and tourism is very strong locally.

WEATHER – CHARLESTON SC

Steamy is how many newcomers describe the local weather in Charleston SC. Storms moving inland from the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea can bring a lot of rainfall. Couple the moisture with temperatures well into the '90s and you end up with a warm, steamy lowcountry.

The average summer rainfall is 15.66 inches June through August. Hurricane season runs June through October. Winters tend to be on the mild side with the temperatures rarely falling below 30 degrees. Snow is rare along this section of the coast.

HURRICANES

The state of South Carolina is very susceptible to hurricanes and tropical storms. Hurricane storm surge is the biggest threat to life and property, but heavy rainfall, high winds, tornadoes, and inland flooding typically accompany these storms. It is a good idea to make a hurricane plan in advance, especially if you are not used to living in a hurricane-prone area.

FLASH FLOODS

Coastal Carolina is a very flat area, close to sea level, with lazy rivers, streams, wetlands, and swamps which are frequently at risk of flooding. Heavy rains can cause rivers and streams to overflow during a tropical storm or hurricane.

HISTORY

There is a lot of history in downtown Charleston, and visitors enjoy the many historic homes to include: Magnolia Plantation & Gardens, the Nathaniel Russell House and Drayton Hall.

More than 40 percent of all African slaves coming to this country arrived through the port of Charleston. The Old Slave Mart on Chalmers Street is the only slave auction hall still standing in the city. The city banned the practice of selling/buying slaves on city streets in 1856 ending this dark chapter in Charleston history. Nearly thirty years ago, the site was restored and now houses the Old Slave Mart Museum and has a market for vendors to sell local items.

THINGS TO DO IN CHARLESTON SC

Outdoor life is a high priority in coastal Carolina with all sorts of activities to include: birding, fishing, swimming, boating, golfing, tennis, hiking and team sports.

The tourism industry also means there is plenty of shopping, dining, nightlife, and local events and festivals. Sandy beaches are another benefit to living in this warm weather city. Isle of Palms and Folly Beach are ideal for a day of swimming and sunbathing and golf!

U.S.S. YORKTOWN

The U.S.S. Yorktown aircraft carrier is a short drive away in Mount Pleasant, SC. You can self-tour, do an audio guided tour, or come at night for a spooky ghost tour! The flight deck, Hanger Bay level, and quarters are all open to be viewed and have wheelchair access. This ship is nicknamed "The Fighting Lady" and saw action in the Battle of the Philippine Sea and Iwo Jima. After WWII, the ship was used in the Vietnam War and in the recovery of NASA's Apollo 8's crew. Insider tip for the history buff, buy a discounted ticket here when you couple it up with a tour to Fort Sumter.

FORT SUMTER

Fort Sumter National Monument is the birthplace of the Civil War. Confederate troops fired the first shots of the war in April 1861. The site is only accessible by boat which a fun adventure in itself. You will see cannons, live reenactments, and explore the entire island and all of its brick and mortar attractions.

HUNLEY

Families stationed in Charleston can visit the H.L. Hunley Submarine. The Hunley became the first successful combat submarine in world history with the sinking of the USS Housatonic in 1862. The submarine and it's 5 crew members disappeared after the mission but were later discovered at the bottom of the ocean in 1995. The crew's bones were still at their posts and they all received Medal of Honor for their mission. It's a very educational tour and includes a life-size replica of the original submarine that you can climb in.

BIRD WATCHING

Bird Watching is a huge pastime locally with at least 15 species of seabirds. Crab Bank in Charleston Harbor is the chosen spot for seabirds to lay their eggs. Though you can't go ashore on the small island during nesting season (March 15-October 15), you can bird watch from the water.

PICNIC UNDER A TREE

The Angel Oak tree, located in Angel Oak Park on Johns Island is estimated to be nearly 500 years old. It stands 66.5 feet tall and measures 28 feet in circumference. The shade produced by the giant oak covers 17,200 square feet.

This post was sponsored by PCSGrades.

U.S. Air Force Photo
Stephanie Wade/U.S. Transportation Command

In military life, there is really nothing more stressful than a Permanent Change of Station (PCS). Deployments are a close second, but a PCS takes the cake. Combine a PCS with a deployment and not only do you want to eat all of the proverbial cake, you want to guzzle copious amounts of wine, too. We see you. Cheers.

One company, PCSgrades, is trying to make the PCS process feel more like a three-letter acronym than a four-letter expletive. Founded by veteran Todd Ernst, PCSgrades is the epitome of the military community taking care of its own. "PCSing has an emotional connotation," said Ernst. "We use it as an adverb, adjective, a noun and even as a cuss word."

Ernst started PCSgrades in 2015 after seeing friends struggle with unethical real estate agents and being taken advantage of by moving companies who knew DoD would be a paying customer no matter how poorly the companies treated their clients - us.

Here are 4 resources PCSgrades provides that you need to make moving easier:

1. Housing reviews

Does it get any more stressful than finding out where you're going to be stationed, Googling base housing at that station and getting results from 15 years ago (if you find anything, at all)? Nope, no it doesn't.

PCSgrades is changing the game on that by having military families who live in an area provide honest, candid reviews of their housing so incoming families can benefit. With reviews of both on and off base locations, families can finally get the truth about housing, whether it has black mold or the best views in town.

2. Moving company reviews

Great, you've figured out where to live; that's half the battle. The other, larger, more complex half? Figuring out how your stuff is going to get there. Knowing someone else will be handling your personal property and driving away with it for the foreseeable future is stressful enough. But not knowing what that company's background is, well that's a whole different ball game.

PCSgrades has countless reviews of moving companies provided by military families who have used them. Let's be honest: You wouldn't try a new Chinese delivery place without looking at reviews … why should picking a moving company be any different?

3. Area guides

The giant Google machine can only get you so far in life when you're researching your new duty station. We know you're busy and you want one-stop shopping on the interwebs. What you really need is aggregate data of things like schools to attend, restaurants to try, day trips to take and neighborhoods to avoid.

Introducing Area Guides, which offer exactly that: a holistic view of where you're moving and what to do once you get there. The best part? These are written by military families who have done it, for military families who are doing it.

4. Network of realtors and resources

PCSgrades has a nationwide network of A-graded realtors who know and understand the military and veteran lifestyle. Many of the realtors are veterans or spouses themselves, which takes the empathy to a whole new level. Having a realtor who gets the pressures of PCSing and the challenges of a military move is key to finding the right home for your family.

"I have friends who are hundreds of thousands of dollars upside down after bad home choices," Ernst said. "Housing choices can be pretty limited. Our moves are way more expensive than the typical civilian move." This is why Ernst created a way to alleviate the pain points for military families through PCSgrades.

In addition to a network of realtors, PCSgrades partners with "HomeScout," which allows you to search up-to-date home listings nationwide. Simply create an account with PCSgrades and the realty world is your oyster.

Whether you're looking for a new neighborhood, trying to find a vetted realtor, need a PCS checklist (let's be honest, is it on your radar to look at the expiration date of your military ID card two months before you PCS? Yeah, we know the truth; download the checklists here), or you're just wanting to know more about where you're heading, PCSgrades is making moving easier for every military family. Pay it forward by leaving reviews and be sure to take advantage of their excellent resources, today.

This post sponsored by PCSgrades.

7 airplane travel hacks with kids

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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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