As she approaches her one-year anniversary of being a military spouse, Matador intern Morgan Leahy deBoer thinks about what US military bases have the most appeal.
I HAD LITTLE EXPERIENCE with the military before moving to San Diego with my husband two and a a half years ago, and I still feel like I learn something new about the Navy every day. The first base we stayed on in San Diego has a small marina, and I remember being surprised to find the base a beautiful place to live!
Below are ten bases that are attractive because of the natural beauty of the place they are stationed in or because of special features of the actual base.
Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii
Marine Corps Base Hawaii – This Marine Corps base, located on the east coast of O’ahu, plays host to RIMPAC, Rim of the Pacific, the largest multinational military exercise in the world. Whether you’re stationed here or attending the month-long RIMPAC exercise, you can surf on base at Pyramid Rock, hike the nearby 4,000-step “Stairway to Heaven,” or take sailing and canoeing classes at the on-base marina.
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
Guantanamo Bay Naval Base – The stigma attached to Guantanamo may make its inclusion on this list questionable, but the opportunities for scuba diving, spearfishing and water sports, as well as its easy access to other Caribbean islands, make Guantanamo an ideal place for singles looking for a warm duty station. Although cordoned off from the rest of Cuba, the base is actually quite large and includes a biologically diverse area that is home to many endangered wildlife species.
NAS Whidbey Island, Washington
Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington – Located in Washington’s Puget Sound, Whidbey Island is near South Whidbey and Deception Pass State Parks, two areas that preserve hundreds of acres of land for camping, fishing, crabbing, and hiking. Old growth, tall firs cover much of the island, and the dark water surrounding the area is home to gray wales, so wale watching and boating are popular. Rain and fog are common, but residents can hike in the state parks and kayak at Possession Point or Saratoga Passage.
Fort Carson, CO
Fort Carson, CO – Fort Carson, â€œThe Best Hometown in the Army,â€ is popular for its proximity to the hiking and climbing at Cheyenne Mountain and Pikes Peak. In the winter, Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) organizes trips for backcountry skiing and snowboarding, and Colorado Springs museums and historic landmarks are a short drive away.
Fort Wainwright, Alaska – I wouldn’t recommend Fort Wainwright, near Fairbanks, to anyone who doesn’t like the cold, but if you do, the mountain scenery surrounding this Army base is impressive. Ice Fishing at Birch Lake, snow machining at White Mountain, climbing, and hiking are popular sports up here. If you visit the base, MWR also organizes scenic and wildlife tours to get a taste of central Alaska.
Naval Base Guam
Naval Base Guam – Guam should be on the wish list for sailors who want to be stationed somewhere where they can dive to over 200 feet with high visibility and surf, though most spots like Tumon Bay are reef breaks and not for beginners. Guam’s military history is still remembered at historic landmarks like pillboxes in the hills used during WWII. The native Chamorro people operate markets with traditional crafts, and Guam is also one of the best places to be stationed to travel quickly to Japan, Australia, Fiji, and Korea.
Ramstein Airbase Germany
Ramstein Airbase Germany – Some friends told me I should include only bases in Germany on this list, and it was tough to pick just one. Ramstein is not only located in a scenic wine-growing region, but it is also such a big base that there is an active community of Americans to host events on 4th of July, publish a newspaper, hold classes, or most importantly, lend a hand to new families on base. It is also a central location to travel all over Europe on short flights.
Eielson Air Force Base – Located near the city of North Pole, Alaska (where hundreds of letters show up for Santa Claus every year), Eielson arguably doesn’t have the most pleasant weather with average temperature hovering around zero degrees for four months a year. But during the summer, the small community hosts festivals, and the baseâ€™s Natural Resource Office can provide information on hunting, fishing, and trapping in the area. Aurora borealis, or Northern Lights, can also be seen here, which is reason enough for me to want to move.
Naval Sub Base Point Loma, San Diego, CA
Naval Sub Base Point Loma – I may be biased about this base because my husband works on it, but with views of downtown San Diego, Cabrillo Monument, Coronado, and Mexico you can’t blame me. This is the home port of several submarines and other non-submarine commands. The weather, central location in San Diego, and the architecture of the buildings, many built during the 1930s and 40s make it a beautiful base, and a great place to be stationed.
Portsmouth Naval Shipyard
Portsmouth Naval Shipyard – Kittery Maine has been the home of Portsmouth Navy Yard since 1800 and has been producing subs since 1917. Most Navy bases are on the water so they have some sort of scenic view, but Portsmouth is special because of the small, historic, town it sits in, first settled in 1623. Today, sailors stationed at Kittery can visit Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse, bed and breakfasts, the Kittery Historical and Naval Museum, outlets and theaters.