By Rebecca Alwine, Army Spouse
Fort Gordon may not be on the list of biggest military bases in the US, but it would surely be on a list of fastest growing. With over 10,000 new soldiers and contractors expected in the next six years, it’s easy to understand why Fort Gordon and the local area are undergoing some growing pains. All branches of the military are stationed at Fort Gordon, in a variety of ways. The surrounding area is experiencing some job and economic growth thanks to the increase in cyber jobs.
Moving to Fort Gordon?
What You Need to Know
Here’s a quick crash course in what you need to know about the local Fort Gordon area. You’ll hear “CSRA” often, which means the Central Savannah River Area, or the area around Augusta. It began as a trading and marketing region and includes 13 counties in Georgia and 8 in neighboring South Carolina.
Also, North Augusta is not in Georgia, but right across the river in South Carolina. These are different cities! North Augusta is home to SRP Park, the new home of the Augusta Green Jackets, the local minor league baseball team.
Balfour Beatty runs installation housing on Fort Gordon. They have some nice neighborhoods on post with newer construction, and some that have been there for a long time. With only 1,000 houses on post (and the number expected to decrease) most people live off post. Fort Gordon sits in Richmond County, but neighboring Columbia County is the preferred location for most families.
Columbia County schools are superior to Richmond County, and this is the main draw. You’ll find military families in Grovetown, Evans, Martinez (pronounced Martin-ehz), and Harlem. For those that don’t have to worry about schools, downtown Augusta, Hepzibah (hep-si-baa), or even right outside the gate in new Sims Landing are affordable options.
A lot of people buy houses here, and there is no sign of construction slowing down. Make sure you find a great realtor who is familiar with military families and the area to help you out. With Army Cyber bringing more troops and contractors, the area is going to see a lot more growth! You’ll hear military families talk about buying being cheaper than renting, and it may be true, but for those wanting to rent, you’ll have no problem finding rentals. You can read reviews of local realtors written by fellow military families at PCSgrades.com. And if you work with a great realtor, help other mil-families by sharing your story through a review.
If you aren’t a golfer (or married to one), you may not understand the importance of this sporting event. The Masters is the premier golf event, and it takes place at Augusta National. This is huge. HUGE. For the 7 to 10 days surrounding the Masters, locals flee. Spring break at school aligns with this week in April, and lots of people rent out their houses to those coming to town. Did I mention this was a big deal? Imagine the Super Bowl in your (otherwise small) town, every day, for a week. That is the Masters.
You may think because you’re in Augusta you can go. Nope. These tickets (called badges) are passed down from generation to generation. Sure, you can maybe grab one for a few hundred bucks for an afternoon of practice. Active duty personnel stationed at Fort Gordon can enter a lottery for one of the four days, for the cost of just $100.
Everything in town changes this week. Hotel prices skyrocket, special menus appear at local restaurants, and traffic is ridiculous. The bonus to living in the area? After the Masters, you can still enjoy the benefits. Second-hand stores often have last year’s apparel in stock. You can enjoy all the great restaurants after the rush of people have left. And if you don’t get a ticket in the lottery, you can try again next year.
It’s hot in Georgia in the summer. Hot and humid. I’ve heard many people say, “If you aren’t in the pool or the lake, summer is miserable.” The good news is most neighborhoods off the installation have a pool, and there is both a splash pad and pool on base as well. As far as lakes and water activities, Boardman Lake is on post. Points West is a military-operated lakeside retreat with rentals and cabins. There are a few state parks nearby with lakes, and you could always kayak down the Savannah River.
It can be cold here too, and when it is, the locals remind themselves that cold weather in the winter means fewer bugs in the summer. Overall, the weather is nice here. Spring and Fall are a great time of year to be outside, and there is plenty to do outside in the CSRA.
Signal vs. Cyber
If you visited Fort Gordon years ago, you’d know it as “Home of the Signal Corps.” But it has changed with the new cyber branch. Fort Gordon is now home of the Signal Center of Excellence and the Cyber Center of Excellence, and that is clearly reflected at the main gate. There’s room for everyone at Fort Gordon, and with Army Cyber on its way, everyone will just have to get along.
Customs and Traditions
Food and Beverage
“Millions of peaches, peaches for me.” Yes, you can enjoy some amazing peaches here in Georgia. There are several opportunities to pick some yourself if you’re so inclined. There is a cute Farmers’ Market down by the riverfront each Saturday that is also worth a trip.
Almost every type of restaurant you can think of is here in the Fort Gordon area. Fast food restaurants, chains, and local joints. A favorite is the farm-to-table, downtown restaurant Hive, which has over 70 beers on tap. Speaking of beer, two great breweries are open for tours and the lazy Sunday afternoon outing or date night.
Georgia is Indeed “The South”
The south has some interesting quirks that you’ll want to know before you arrive. Don’t be surprised when you hear a lot of “sir” and “ma’am” even when not on the installation. Southern charm is actually charming, Y’all! Also, you need to establish where you stand on college football. If you’re living in Augusta, the correct answer is Georgia Bulldogs.
As far as dress code, Augusta is still pretty southern and traditional. You’ll see a lot of polo shirts, khaki shorts, and boat shoes. Of course, golf polos with the Masters logo on them are a favorite among everyone. But if you’re going to a country club for lunch, you’ll need to dress your best. No white before Memorial Day or after Labor Day, a nice dress with heels (gasp!), and a button front shirt with a tie are required.
Points of Interest
“Augusta is in the middle of nowhere, and two hours from everywhere,” a friend told us when we first arrived. He’s right, within just a few hours you can see a lot of the local region.
Columbia – 90 minutes
Columbia, South Carolina is a great day-trip location. The Riverbanks Zoo is there, which is the zoo Augusta natives recommend the most. There is also an EdVenture Museum for kids, the State House, and several parks. If you’re into history, there are plenty of historical homes to visit as well. Take a little time to enjoy a great cup of coffee at Drip with friends who may be living at Fort Jackson as well.
Atlanta – 2 hours
If you’re missing the hustle and bustle of a big city, head west on I-20 into Atlanta. Favorites here include the Coke Museum, the Aquarium, and anything sports related. You can also occasionally find better deals on flights out of Atlanta than Augusta.
Savannah – 2.5 hours
Head southeast towards the coast, and you’ll fall in love with Savannah. The history is alive and well here, with gorgeous homes and manicured parks. Tybee Island would be a great family outing while visiting the Savannah area as well. And of course, you’ll want to connect with friends at Fort Stewart or Hunter Army Airfield. But don’t go on St. Patrick’s Day, whatever you may have read. It’s just not worth it.
Charleston – 3 hours
The cobblestone streets of the port city of Charleston are enough to win anyone over. This area is excellent for a weekend getaway, with or without kids. Visit Fort Sumter, Magnolia Plantation, or the 4-block city market while you’re there. Enjoy a stroll downtown and view the architecture that brings antebellum history alive.
Fort Gordon Information
Fort Gordon is located about eight miles southwest of the heart of Augusta, Georgia. Most people live off base, as there simply isn’t enough housing for the current population. Check out photos of all the Ft Gordon housing neighborhoods at PCSgrades.com. There is one commissary (closed on Mondays) and one Exchange located on post. Fort Gordon boasts a 93-bed hospital with an Emergency Room. Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center used to be the headquarters of the Army’s Southeast Regional Medical Command. There is one elementary school on post, Freedom Park, which serves K-8 and is operated by Richmond County. High school students living on post are zoned for ARC, also in Richmond County.
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PCSgrades Author: Rebecca Alwine is a freelance writer, army wife, and mother of three. She’s also a contributing writer for ARMY Magazine, a regular contributor for several publications including to Homefront United Network, PCSgrades, ESME, and has also been published in Ms. Magazine and The Atlantic. You can follow her online at www.whatrebeccathinks.com.