MCAS New River shares the town of Jacksonville, North Carolina with Camp Lejeune. And all of the amenities and perks that come with living on Lejeune also come with being stationed on MCAS New River.
New River is bordered by the New River, and a small highway, US-17. Traffic is always very light, primarily if you are used to traffic in Northern Virginia or California.
The town of Jacksonville is a small town that is growing steadily. If you haven't been stationed here in the past 5 or 10 years, there is a lot of growth.
WHERE IS MCAS NEW RIVER?
Marine Corps Air Station New River is a small installation just across the river from Camp Lejeune. Home to The School of Infantry – East MAG-26 and MAG-29, it is the primary duty station on the East Coast for Marine helicopter and Osprey pilots.
Because MCAS New River is so close to Camp Lejeune, many of the usual base amenities are located on Camp Lejeune instead of New River.
There is a small MCAS New River commissary that, while not open as long as the Lejeune commissary, is much quieter and more peaceful to shop in. The New River Exchange is much smaller than Camp Lejeune's and is more of a "basic necessities" place to shop. But Walmart is only 5 minutes away, and Target is only 20 minutes away.
The gym is very new and has a beautiful lap pool with free access for active duty personnel and families. There are also soccer, baseball, and football fields located near the barracks.
There is a beautiful marina located along the back of the base that has many different boats for rent; all you need to do is take an online class! There is also a boat launch and water access if you have your own boat.
They also have the typical base bowling alley, movie theater, child development centers, and fast food restaurants. There is an elementary school, although middle and high school students are bused to Lejeune.
There is a small neighborhood for enlisted active duty personnel, McCutcheon Manor, and a small neighborhood for officers, Peterfield Landing, located on New River. Because these neighborhoods are so small, they are incredibly close-knit and friendly. The size of the base also means that both neighborhoods are less than 5 minutes driving distance from the front gate, commissary, schools, and squadrons.
If the wait lists to live on New River are too long when you arrive, there is more housing available on Camp Lejeune, with an easy 10-20 minute commute that hardly ever involves any traffic. Another bonus to living on Camp Lejeune is easier access to the base amenities that are lacking on New River.
Living out in town is also a great option. Unlike being stationed on Camp Lejeune, New River offers a few more easy-commute opportunities if you do not want to live in Jacksonville. The cities of Sneads Ferry, Holly Ridge, and Hampstead are only 20-30 minutes away from New River's front gate and offer easy access to the much larger city of Wilmington. Wilmington has a college, lots of hospitals, and other businesses that many spouses are able to find employment with, which makes living in the middle an excellent compromise for commutes.
BAH AND COST OF LIVING
The median home cost in Jacksonville is way below the national average, at around $130,000 which makes Jacksonville a very affordable place to buy. North Carolina as a state has a median home cost above Jacksonville, by about $50,000 but still under the U.S. average of around $216,000.
MCAS NEW RIVER WEATHER
The weather around New River can be one of the most exciting wildcards of being stationed here.
New River is deep in the heart of hurricane country. If like me, you are not from a part of the country that regularly has hurricanes, it can be very intimidating. Especially if you are here with a squadron and are told that the odds of your Marine having to "hurrivac" the aircraft is high. But, be encouraged: there are excellent communications from the base, command, and news sources about when it is appropriate to evacuate, and when stocking up on bottled water and non-perishables are okay.
Even if hurricanes do not make landfall, intense electrical storms with lots of rain often roll through on summer afternoons. Making smart decisions about taking cover from the lightning and using the storms as a respite from the extreme heat makes them more fun than a nuisance.
It does get boiling and humid during the summer. During June, July, and August, the afternoons can reach a heat index of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, with the humidity high enough to be miserable. But, the flip side of that is a very mild winter! It only snows about 2-3 days a year, which means that even an inch of snow can cause school closures and essential personnel only on base.
CULTURE AND CUSTOMS
North Carolina is famous for seafood and barbecue. Shredded, savory pork can be found all across eastern North Carolina. Farm-to-table restaurants highlighting locally-grown produce and meat are also on the rise. The tea here is sweet like corn syrup. Food trucks are immensely popular as well at the local farmer's and open-air markets that stretch from Wilmington out to Beaufort.
MCAS New River's customs and traditions are often swept in with Camp Lejeune, Cherry Point, and surrounding areas.
Squadrons from New River participate in both the static displays and flight demonstrations during the annual air show at MCAS Cherry Point.
There are also festivals and events on Camp Lejeune, including "BaseFest" every Independence Day, and Christmas concerts and other activities during the holidays.
While MCAS New River may be a smaller, quieter base regarding amenities and volume of people, it is conveniently located near a lot of fun areas. While the operations tempo is very high on the Air Station, with aircraft continually taking off and landing, the pace of life in this part of North Carolina is a lot slower than some other duty stations. Take advantage of the lack of traffic and small-town feel both on-base and out in town.
There are lots of places to explore that are within driving distance, or good for a long weekend, such as Myrtle Beach, the Outer Banks, Charlotte, and Asheville. These are all fantastic cities worth exploring, whether you are looking for kid-friendly activities or adults-only fun.
The capital of North Carolina is only 2 hours away. There are many fun places to explore such as Marbles Children's Museum, Pullen Park, and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.
And don't forget to check out Mike's Farm for hayrides to pumpkin patches in the fall, Christmas trees in the winter, and strawberries in the spring!
Willmington is only 45 minutes away along a quiet highway. There are several museums there, including the USS North Carolina: a battleship now docked on the river and open to the public. And any shopping that the town of Jacksonville might be lacking can be found in Wilmington.
KINSTON, SWANSBORO, MOREHEAD CITY, AND NEW BERN
These small cities within an hour's drive with unique restaurants that feature locally caught seafood and locally grown produce.
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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.
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.