Top Requested Duty Stations of Marine Corps Aviators
Do you ever wonder which military installations are the best? You’ve undoubtedly heard of the worst places to get stationed across the military branches. I can easily rattle off all the places I’ve had Air Force, Army, and Marine Corps spouses tell me they would never return to (Minot AFB cough, cough), but I couldn’t tell you which installations they actually hoped to go.
As a spouse that is part of the Marine Corps aviation community, I don't know where Army infantry families want to go, but I know where our community requests to be. To confirm my thoughts before writing this, I reached out online, and after hundreds of responses, the results were unmistakable.
So what exactly is on a marine aviator’s dream sheet?
1. MCAS Miramar
Marine Air Ground Task Force Demo 2018 MCAS Miramar Air Show. Two F/A-18 Hornets with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 314 fly over Southern California during the 2018 Marine Corps Air Station Miramar Air Show on Sept. 28. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jesula Jeanlois) from MCAS Miramar Facebook Page
Situated in Southern California on the north side of San Diego and 40 minutes south of Camp Pendleton, MCAS Miramar is a beloved duty station. It’s become a favorite among families for its versatility. Within a short drive, you have access to the Historic Downtown District, authentic Mexican cuisine, the beach, beautiful hikes at Torrey Pines, wineries in Temecula, desert camping, and some of the best shopping districts. The culture here fosters a healthier lifestyle, and the picture-perfect weather gets the community outside.
But it’s more than what’s in your backyard. With San Diego International Airport within minutes of the base, military members have the advantage of frequent and relatively inexpensive flights home. And if you’re looking for a weekend destination, Los Angeles, Disney World, Big Bear, Joshua Tree, and more are within a few hours’ drive.
Aircraft and Units at MCAS Miramar
F/A-18, F-35B, F-35C, KC-130, MV-22, CH-53E
- VMFA-232, VMFA-314, VMFA-323, VMFAT-101, VMGR-352, MALS-11, VMFAT-502
- HMH-361, HMH-462, HMH-465, HMH-466, VMM-161, VMM-163, VMM-165, VMM-166, VMM-362, VMM-363, MALS-16, MWSS-374
- MWCS-38, MWSS-373
Why the Military Community Loves MCAS Miramar
This region has a nearly endless supply of resources. Where some duty stations experience a long delay in receiving parts for broken aircraft, Miramar typically doesn’t. Additionally, ranges and training sites like ITX at 29 Palms and WTI in Yuma are near home. While deployments are regular, the day-to-day keeps aviators closer to home versus other locations that require overnight stays to operate similar exercises. Plus, it’s home to the annual MCAS Miramar air show that generates excitement on the West Coast.
2. Marine Corps Base Hawaii
Photo from Marine Corps Base Hawaii Facebook Page
Who could say no to paradise? Situated in Kailua on the windward side of Oahu, MCBH is a tropical haven for Marine aviators and their families. The beaches, soul-warming sunshine, and endless opportunities for adventure are just a few reasons that make K-Bay a favorite among the Marine aviation community. Kailua offers a small-town feel on an otherwise heavily populated island.
Base living here offers another layer of popularity to this duty station. The offering of larger homes close to the beach in on-base housing is the more popular option here. The kids play outside from sun up to sun down while the playgrounds fill with joyful kids.
While big road trips aren’t an option here, camping, stay-cations in Waikiki, and island hopping to Kauai, Maui, and the Big Island offer a reprieve from the day-to-day routine.
Aircraft and Units at MCBH
MV-22, RQ-21, KC-130J, MH-60R
- Navy unit HSM-37
Why the Military Community Loves MCBH
While island life sometimes sends the aviation community to the Big Island or back to the mainland for training exercises and equipment, the island fosters a tight sense of community for the families here. Not to mention, the views from above never grow old.
3. NAS Pensacola
Training Squadron TEN (VT-10) conducts a routine formation training event over the Pensacola operating area. Photo from Training Air Wing Six /NAS Pensacola
It’s no wonder Pensacola is a popular selection among the aviation community. The “Cradle of Naval Aviation,” home to the Naval Aviation Museum, is the primary training ground for the Blue Angels and a large part of the community’s history.
Plus, it sits on the Florida panhandle, handing residents easy access to pristine white sandy beaches, incredible fishing, and a vibrant downtown. The local community here is active, often hosting events and getting residents outside. You'll find events like Mardis Gras, the downtown monthly art walk, and the McGuire’s 5K.
Aircraft and Units at MCBH
T-6A and T-45C
Training Air Wing 6
Why the Military Community Loves NAS Pensacola
Since this is a Navy base, there are fewer flying opportunities on NAS Pensacola for Marine aviators. Everyone comes here to train to become an aviator or air traffic controller, and many request to return with orders to instruct upcoming pilots. It’s particularly appealing to the community because it often offers reprieve after a rigorous fleet tour and allows for a more relaxed season for the family.
Note that NAS Whiting Field, 30 minutes northeast of Pensacola, offers the same appeal flying the TH-57 rather than the fixed-wing T-6.
Other popular duty stations among the Marine aviation community include MCAS Futenma in Okinawa, Japan; MCAS New River in North Carolina; and less common duty stations like Lisbon, Portugal, and the Netherlands.
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