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Your Naval Air Station Jacksonville / Naval Station Mayport Area Guide

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No question, Florida is a fun place to live, in spite of the frequency for hurricanes and the humidity that may affect your Yuma-perfected hairstyle. But when the orders come down for Naval Air Station Jacksonville or Naval Station Mayport, you may find yourself with more questions than answers.

WHERE IS JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA?

The area where the St. John's River meets the Atlantic Ocean is where you'll find the heart of Jacksonville. The beach and golf are two very popular things to do in the area, as TPC Sawgrass and Neptune Beach top almost every "must do" in Jacksonville list.

Jacksonville sits between two Navy installations, Naval Air Station Jacksonville and Naval Station Mayport. From the city center, NAS Jax is about 10 miles to the southwest. NS Mayport is about 20 miles due east. With two installations so close to each other, families can live on either installation or somewhere in between and still have easy access to the military resources. They could also easily blend in with the locals and feel at home on the beach and in the downtown areas.

NAVAL AIR STATION JACKSONVILLE

As the largest navy installation in the Southeast, NAS Jacksonville is also the third biggest navy installation in the country, which is why you will probably run into friends from long ago on your tour there. NAS JAX is a master Air and industrial base and home to aviation training and anti-submarine warfare. With over 17,000 military and civilians working on the installation, there are over 34,000 family members in the area. Hello, military town.


NAVAL STATION MAYPORT

On the other side of the city lays NS Mayport, which is almost as big as NAS JAX. About 15,000 active duty and 32,000 family members call this area home. The port can hold up to 34 ships, and the 8,000-foot runway can accommodate any type of aircraft the Dept of Defense wants to land there. Busy is NS Mayport's middle name, and "sustain and support the fleet" their game.

NAVAL AIR STATION JACKSONVILLE HOUSING

NAS Jacksonville and NS Mayport housing are both managed by Balfour Beatty. It is a mix of older and newer neighborhoods. As is common in older military housing, some of these houses are smaller than what you would find out in town. However, the convenience of living on the installation often makes up for it.

Traffic is always a concern in larger cities and should be considered when looking at housing options. With unpredictable work schedules, overnight duties, and time out to sea, living a little farther away may not affect your daily commute enough to be a problem. Some of the popular areas to live nearby Naval Air Station Jacksonville include Northwoods, Coastal Oaks, and Carriage Crossing. Make sure to check out the reviews on these neighborhoods.

Leave Reviews of your Jacksonville Neighborhood Here!

JACKSONVILLE FLORIDA WEATHER

You probably don't need a refresher on how awesome Florida weather is, but here it is in a nutshell. It's awesome! Sunny days, occasional rainstorms, warm weather year-round. Oh, and hurricanes in the summer and fall. And the unusually cold weather in the winter. Just don't complain about the weather to your friend living up North, who really don't want to hear about the temperature in Jacksonville, Florida.

JACKSONVILLE BAH & COST OF LIVING

The marketing in Jacksonville is increasing, at an average of 4.8%, with some areas, including Spring Park, increasing even more. Buying may be a good option if you are stationed here long enough or are looking for a rental property as an investment. In 2018, the average rental for an apartment increased by 11%, bringing the average for a two-bedroom apartment to $1248, which is doable for most families. However, when it comes to renting a home, the prices are all over the place, varying due to location, size, etc.

ON-BASE AMENITIES

The MWR at NAS Jax boasts some great options. From golf and fishing to bowling and bingo, there is something for everyone. Learn to sail or canoe, rent a stand-up paddleboard or surfboard and explore the St. Johns River – all without leaving the base. There are monthly 5k runs and a sauna in the Base Gym. And, the commissary is open every, single day!

You can also utilize the Tickets & Travel Office to get discounted tickets to local attractions, cruises, and hotels. If you can't find something there, check out what GovX may have available in the area.

CULTURE & CUSTOMS

Florida can often be caught in the middle between southern and not southern. While in the south, it's not really "the deep south." But, don't worry, you can still find some awesome restaurants and shops in the area.

COFFEE

We know you like coffee, or, if you don't (we still love you), you know that meeting someone for "coffee" is the start of a beautiful friendship. Skip the Starbucks and head to Bold Bean Coffee on Stockton Street or Hendrick's and order a spiced chocolate latte or a honey latte with almond milk. Chamblin's Uptown is a beautiful place to grab a cup of coffee and wander through the bookstore. Cinnamon apple cider sure sounds good while sitting outside reading your new book.

RESTAURANTS

Food is fuel, for the mind, body, and soul. Finding a solid date night restaurant, one for ladies' night out, and the one you can take your toddler to on a rough deployment day is hard. Here are some suggestions. The Metro Diner has been voted the best breakfast in JAX since 2006. They've also been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. Go ahead, order the meatloaf plate or maybe the Pittsburg Steak salad. Or both.

Another great breakfast idea is Maple Street Biscuit Company. With at least half a dozen locations in Jacksonville (and some in other excellent places!) you won't want to miss out. They serve good food, with fun names like The Squawking Goat and The Sticky Maple, with a great attitude. Make sure you get there early in the weekend though, they're closed on Sundays. And, for date night or something a little fancier, try Copeland's of New Orleans.

RIVERSIDE ARTS MARKET

Each and every Saturday, the Riverside Arts Market features local artists, farmers, and other creatives as they show off their wares and sell their products from 10 am to 3 pm. Fresh produce is a huge draw for locals, and this venue accepts WIC, EBT, and SNAP! There's morning yoga starting at 9 am, and this family-friendly event will be full of strollers, bikes, and toddlers. Each week about 4,000 people head down to the area under the Fuller Warren Bridge.

AREA ATTRACTIONS

Like any new place, you may be overwhelmed by all the options. Here are some of our favorite things to do around NAS Jacksonville.

THE JACKSONVILLE FLORIDA BEACHES

While the Emerald Coast and Pensacola's beaches are some of the most beautiful in the country, the Jacksonville Florida beaches give them a run for their money. Ponte Vedra Beach, home to the golf world, is calmer than some of the "Spring Break friendly" places while Jacksonville beach is the quintessential vacation-style beach area. Shops, restaurants, boardwalks, and surfing make this a much-see place. St. Augustine's beaches are a great place for a family adventure and the only place you can drive your car on the beach.

SPORTS

The sporting scene in Jacksonville goes way beyond the Jaguars, thankfully. There's a minor league baseball team, the Jacksonville Suns, which can improve any summer evening. The Sharks bring indoor football to a whole new level. You may be able to snag some tickets to the Players Tour (golf – for those who aren't fans), and the Daytona 500 is only a quick hour away.

Each January, the TaxSlayer Bowl is held in Jacksonville (and tickets are infinitely easier to get for military families) and when the Georgia Bulldogs head to visit the Florida Gators, the entire city loves football.

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

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.