When you PCS, finding a new home is half the battle. Yes, the neighborhood, schools and distance to your workplace for you and your spouse are all critical details, but that doesn’t really give you a sense on how life is really like at a your new duty station.
In all of the locations I’ve lived, one of the most important points of a new duty station is the overall vibe.
Is your new duty station by the water? So, does it have a low-key beach feel?
Or maybe it’s smack dab in the middle of the continental U.S. with lots of open space? In that case, does it have a more rugged outdoorsy feel?
Military spouses can definitely make the most out of wherever we land. Before we prepare ourselves for the next adventure though, it’s nice to know what kind of environment we’re moving our family into. But, how do you truly get to know your next duty station location before you pack up and leave your current one?
This is where your duty station reconnaissance comes into play.
Here are 8 websites to use to help you conduct your duty station recon.
1. Military.com Installation Guide
This resource is great because it also aggregates base or post specific news on each installation page. I love that they have an extensive overseas list too. Military.com also added a forum to search through or add questions about the area.
The website has a wonderful premise. PCSgrades allows military members and their spouses to grade neighborhoods around their installation. It launched last year and is growing in reviews, so with that said, hop on and review any previous areas to help other military families moving.
3. AHRN.com’s Installation Features
AHRN.com is a housing referral website, but they also have a blog that focuses on the needs of military members. They have special Installation Features that are aimed to help PCSing military families to a new area. Where can you go for date night? Or what are the best gates to use in the morning? Ya know, important questions answered!
4. Military Town Advisor
Military Town Advisor is another housing site that highlights things to do near an installation too. They have Facebook branch groups for military families that want to share resources.
5. Neighborhood Scout
I used this site a lot for digging into neighborhood data. They have crime rates, school data and demographics. There is also a section that provides a narrative of the city.
For example, here’s what it says about Gulfport, Miss:
Gulfport is home to a number of people employed in the armed forces. When you visit or walk around Gulfport, some of the people you will bump into will be military people In and out of uniform, jogging, shopping and generally out and about town.
Neighborhood Scout can help with calculating housing costs and allow you to gauge the vibes of the area.
6. Military Installation’s Website
What do you do when your spouse tells you they got orders to so-and-so? I can probably guess the first thing you hop to is the internet and Google the installation name. A majority of bases/posts update their websites with current events and community news. That can give you a huge sense of what are the common happenings at your new area.
Save time and bookmark this website. It’s the official DoD source for military installation information.
7. City or County Website
On a broader scale, you can scope out the city’s website. I was able to learn a lot of about the neighboring towns outside the base and get a sense of the community feel. Before moving to northern Virginia, I knew the areas of town that had more of a nightlife and areas that were more residential.
8. Spouses’ Club or Spouse Facebook Pages
Finally, you can search installation specific spouses’ groups to ask someone that is currently at your gaining installation. I can vouch for my community’s pages that they have been helpful for me to get questions answered quickly. It goes without saying that your personal wall could be powerful to get questions answered too. It never hurts to ask!