By Carla Olivo, Marine Spouse
Up for a little midnight sun? It’s been said the Fairbanks region of Alaska will awaken the spirit and nourish the soul.
Unique is one word that comes to mind. From the aurora borealis to sunlight in the middle of the night, being stationed here will be a tour to remember.
An assignment to Fort Wainwright, Eielson Air Force Base, or Fort Greely is considered an overseas tour. If your dependents want to accompany you to Alaska, your PCS orders must say “concurrent travel” and each family member’s name must be listed on your orders.
WHERE IS Fairbanks, Alaska?
Fairbanks is Alaska’s second largest city and is centrally located within the 49th state about 365 miles north of Anchorage. Eielson Air Force Base is 26 miles southeast of Fairbanks, and Fort Greely is 100 miles southeast of the city. Fort Wainwright is located in the North Star Borough of the city.
Many try to live on the installation in Alaska given the high cost of utilities due to the long, harsh winters. On-base housing fills up fast, so it’s recommended you get on the list as soon as possible.
Eielson Air Force Base
Eielson AFB is home to the 354th Fighter Wing, the 354th Operations Group, the 354th Fighter Wing, the 354th Medical Group, the 354th Mission Support Group and the 354th Maintenance Group. Corvias owns the family housing and is responsible for maintaining, repairing, constructing and managing the community. There are a variety of floor plans available in single-family, duplex and multiplex homes.
The Winn Companies handles on-post housing at Ft. Greely. They have 2-4 bedroom apartments with varying amenities, such as dishwasher, washer/dryer hookups, and heated garages. Additionally, the community features a swimming pool, sauna, and playgrounds.
The North Haven master-planned communities offer a variety of homes and neighborhood amenities designed to meet your family’s needs.
Fairbanks Alaska Weather
It’s Alaska! And yes, it’s COLD! The average temperature in January is minus 3 degrees. And the thermometer can fall below minus 50 degrees on occasion! It’s a long winter in the Fairbanks region lasting from October to April. From October through December, an average of 65 inches of snow falls.
There isn’t much of a spring to speak of. The summer months of June through August feature temperatures in the 60-70 degree range.
BAH & COST OF LIVING
While Alaska is one of the most expensive places to live in the U.S., the Fairbanks region has one of the lowest cost-of-living rates in the state.
Overall, the cost of living in Fairbanks is 36 percent higher than the national average, partly due to the high cost of utilities. The cost of housing is also relatively high at 54 percent above the national average. The median home price in Fairbanks is $245,000.
Eielson Air Force Base
The Commissary is open six days a week, closing on Mondays and holidays. The Base Exchange offers a great selection of merchandise, including clothing, shoes, personal care items, housewares, hardware, sporting goods, cameras, electronics, computer software, and books. There is also a barber, hair salon, alterations, floral and optical shops all located within the shopping center mall area, along with a food court.
Ft. Greely is a small installation with a commissary, movie theatre, MWR, Family Medical Center, autocraft ahop and Child Development Center.
There is a full serviced commissary on post, as well as a chapel, Armed Services YMCA, veterinary services, and the Bassett Army Community Hospital. The Fort Wainwright Community Spouses’ Club is open to spouses of active-duty and retired military members in all branches of the armed services who are assigned, attached or living at Fort Wainwright, as well as active military members and Department of Defense civilians and their spouses.
CULTURE & CUSTOMS
If you crave sunlight, you won’t see a lot of it during the winter months. The sun goes down to as little as 3-4 hours of sunlight a day, culminating in the shortest day of the year on December 21, the winter solstice. During the holiday season, everyone leaves their Christmas lights on around the clock making it truly a Winter Wonderland. 17 minutes of sunlight per day is gained until there is sunshine around the clock on June 21st, the summer solstice.
Outdoor life is front and center in this part of Alaska. On any given day you can enjoy the view of the Aurora lights and a friendly visit from the neighborhood moose! There is plenty of hunting, fishing, camping and winter sports available that you won’t get anywhere else! Fort Wainwright is a great area for enjoying hockey games in the winter, camping and berry picking in the summer.
Fairbanks Children’s Museum
The museum offers interactive exhibits designed for young people and activities such as role-playing, science, art and crafts, building, physical movement, and water play. These events are specifically designed to create a playful learning environment.
Aurora Borealis Lodge
View the northern lights in style and comfort! Located 21 miles north of Fairbanks, the Aurora Borealis Lodge is ideally situated for 360 degree viewing & photography. From late August through early April, they offer nightly aurora tours with round-trip transfers from Fairbanks.
Enjoy a relaxing, entertaining boat cruise of the Chena and Tanana Rivers, including a guided walking tour of the Chena Indian Village. See Susan Butcher’s champion dogs, the wedding of the rivers, and Dixie Alexander’s Athabascan art.
Fairbanks Curling Club
They like to say “100 Years & Still Rockin'”. This is the oldest club devoted to any sport in Alaska.
Sled Dog Adventures in Fairbanks
Exciting dogsled rides, mushing school & tours with Alaskan guides. Arctic gear supplied.
Chena Hot Springs Resort
Experience the natural healing waters of the 105-degree outdoor hot springs rock lake with the northern lights dancing above your head. Families can enjoy the indoor swimming pool and hot tubs. No other place in Alaska offers both and they are open year-round.
Have you ever been stationed in Alaska? Let other military and veteran families know what you liked or maybe didn’t like about the area at PCSgrades.com.
Carla Olivo has garnered numerous TV industry awards including the Associated Press award for Spot News Reporting, and Documentary Reporting. She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband, a retired USMC Lt. Colonel, and their two children.