Unaccompanied Orders - to Go or Stay?

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Your MCAS Cherry Point Area Guide

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New assignment MCAS Cherry Point? Lucky You! Being stationed at MCAS Cherry Point means enjoying all the highlights of coastal Carolina in one setting.



Cherry Point, home of 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, is firmly rooted in the Croatan National Forest near Havelock between Morehead City on the Atlantic Ocean and colonial New Bern on the banks of the Neuse and Trent Rivers. The pine trees along Highway 70 to the north and south mean the landscape is green year-round.


At MCAS Cherry Point you will find those who are fiercely fond of living on-base and those who are equally in favor of living off base. Having more than one good housing option means families can choose the situation that best meets their needs.

Cherry Point housing is one of those bases that is often referred to as "Mayberry". Neighborhood kids riding bikes and neighbors enjoying each other's company paints an idyllic picture of times past. AMCC manages a mix of historic and new homes.

Cherry Point O1 To O8 Grants Landing

Those who live in on-base housing love the convenience of the service member's short commute to work. Popular options for living off base run the length of Highway 70 from the James City area of New Bern to the communities surrounding Atlantic Beach.

To read housing reviews written by fellow mil-families for Cherry Point, visit PCSgrades.com.


The base offers the typical lineup of services including an exchange, commissary, uniform shop, food court, Marine Marts, auto hobby shop, dry cleaner, and three inns. Need to see the doc? The Naval Health Clinic Cherry Point offers primary and specialty outpatient care to service and family members.


Craven and Carteret counties serve students on and around Cherry Point. Bus service is available to children K-12 in base housing communities as there are no schools aboard Cherry Point itself. The Cherry Tree House is available for before- and after-school care. For those service members with children, school rating websites and word of mouth can often influence where families choose to live. The School Liaison is an excellent, unbiased resource in helping to find a good fit for your child's personality and/or educational needs.


Summer temps average in the mid-80's. Winters are relatively mild. During the winter months of December, January and February the temperatures usually hover above 40 degrees with the occasional dip below freezing. Pollen, hurricanes, humidity, as well as dramatic thunderstorms, are seasonal companions.



To say this area is proud of its vinegar-based barbecue would be an understatement. The shredded, savory pork can be found all across eastern North Carolina both as an entrée and as an ingredient in other dishes. Seafood, another highlight of the region, can be found in every town adjacent to water. Farm-to-table restaurants highlighting locally-grown produce and meat are on the rise. But not to worry—there are plenty of the fast-food options you know and love both on and off base. The tea here is sweet like corn syrup.


Eastern North Carolina is home to mammals ranging from opossums to nutria (think rodents of unusual size from "The Princess Bride") to black bears. Alligators and snakes also love the swampy, coastal landscape. Bull sharks are among the most feared predators and can be found in both the ocean and the inter-coastal waterway. Whales can be spotted offshore during migration season.


North Carolina loves a good festival. Additionally, they are a great way to get acquainted with the area's natural resources. The North Carolina Seafood Festival is held every October in Morehead City and headlines, you guessed it, our abundant supply and love of seafood! MumFest is held annually in downtown New Bern as well as the Mullet Festival (yep, another fish) in Swansboro. Christmas is particularly enchanting with the beautifully-decorated historic districts, tree lightings, and Christmas flotillas. Churches are abundant here but much more diverse in theology and worship style than the steepled country variety portrayed in Southern movies.


New Bern—Founded in 1710 by German and Swiss immigrants, New Bern is home to the colonial Tryon Palace and Gardens as well as the birthplace of Pepsi-Cola. This unique town is only about a half hour from base.

North Carolina Aquarium Pine Knoll Shores —The aquarium makes a great half-day trip on sunny and rainy days alike.

The Minnesott-Cherry Branch Ferry—Take a free, 20-minute ride in your car or the ferry cabin across the Neuse River to Minnesott Beach. The surrounding historic squares look to be straight out of a Nicholas Sparks novel.

Atlantic Beach— You can enjoy the sand, souvenir shops, and fishing piers here in less than a 45 minute trip from base.

Beaufort— Drive approximately 25 miles south down Rt 101 and you can walk this historic town that was once home to Blackbeard.


As Cherry Point is located on the Neuse River in the state's only coastal forest. It boasts a marina, numerous tent and RV camping options, launching sites for canoes and kayaks, as well as abundant fishing. swim lessons, and junior lifeguard camp. Open and lap swim and fitness classes are available among the three pools on base. Cherry Point boasts four gyms: Devil Dog, Hancock, Hancock Aerobics and Spin Center, and the Marine Dome. A paintball is also available on base.

Best wishes for your time aboard MCAS Cherry Point! Once you feel settled in the local area, read about more nearby adventures on PCSgrades.com.

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.

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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


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.

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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.


  • 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.


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".


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.


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.