By Laura Schofield, USMC Spouse
MCAS New River shares the town of Jacksonville, North Carolina with Camp Lejeune. And all of the amenities and perks that come with living on Lejeune also come with being stationed on MCAS New River.
New River is bordered by the New River, and a small highway, US-17. Traffic is always very light, especially if you are used to traffic in Northern Virginia or California.
The town of Jacksonville is a small town that is growing steadily. If you haven’t been stationed here in the past 5 or 10 years, there is a lot of growth. The majority of the restaurants are still chain restaurants and mostly fast food. However, there are some hidden gems for foodies if you search for them.
Moving to MCAS New River
What You Need to Know
Marine Corps Air Station New River is a small installation just across the river from Camp Lejeune. Home to The School of Infantry – East and MAG-26 and MAG-29, it is the primary duty station on the East Coast for Marine helicopter and osprey pilots.
There is a small neighborhood for enlisted active duty personnel, McCutcheon Manor, and a small neighborhood for officers, Peterfield Landing, located on New River. Because these neighborhoods are so small, they are incredibly close-knit and friendly. The size of the base also means that both neighborhoods are less than 5 minutes driving distance from the front gate, commissary, schools, and squadrons.
If the wait lists to live on New River are too long when you arrive, there is more housing available on Camp Lejeune, with an easy 10-20 minute commute that hardly ever involves any traffic. Another bonus to living on Camp Lejeune is easier access to the base amenities that are lacking on New River.
Living out in town is also a great option. Unlike being stationed on Camp Lejeune, New River offers a few more easy-commute opportunities if you do not want to live in Jacksonville. The cities of Sneads Ferry, Holly Ridge, and Hampstead are only 20-30 minutes away from New River’s front gate and offer easy access to the much larger city of Wilmington. Wilmington has a college, lots of hospitals, and other businesses that many spouses are able to find employment with, making living in the middle an excellent compromise for commutes.
The weather around New River can be one of the most exciting wildcards of being stationed here.
New River is deep in the heart of hurricane country. If like me, you are not from a part of the country that regularly has hurricanes, it can be very intimidating. Especially if you are here with a squadron and are told that the odds of your Marine having to “hurrivac” the aircraft is high. But, be encouraged: there are excellent communications from the base, command, and news sources about when it is appropriate to evacuate, and when stocking up on bottled water and non-perishables are okay.
Even if hurricanes do not make landfall, intense electrical storms with lots of rain often roll through on summer afternoons. Making smart decisions about taking cover from the lightning and using the storms as a respite from the extreme heat makes them more fun than a nuisance.
It does get really hot and humid during the summer. During June, July, and August, the afternoons can reach a heat index of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, with the humidity high enough to be miserable. But the flip side of that is a very mild winter! It only snows about 2-3 days a year, which means that even an inch of snow can cause school closures and essential personnel only on base.
North Carolina is home to a variety of wildlife that ranges from fireflies to alligators! The alligators tend to stick to deep ditches and the rivers and tributaries that surround the base, so on base, you will probably not see any. But be aware if you go out boating!
The bugs are the biggest nuisances here. Cockroaches, fire ants, flies, and mosquitoes all take up residence any chance they can get. Visits from Orkin are a great base perk.
If you don’t mind the bugs, fishing is a great pastime both on and off base. There are small docks along the rivers of both New River and Camp Lejeune that offer great places to sit and fish.
Customs and Traditions
North Carolina is famous for seafood and barbecue. Shredded, savory pork can be found all across eastern North Carolina. Farm-to-table restaurants highlighting locally-grown produce and meat are also on the rise. The tea here is sweet like corn syrup. Food trucks are immensely popular as well at the local farmer’s and open-air markets that stretch from Wilmington out to Beaufort.
Points of Interest
While MCAS New River may be a smaller, quieter base in terms of amenities and volume of people, it is conveniently located near a lot of fun areas. While the operations tempo is very high on the Air Station, with aircraft continually taking off and landing, the pace of life in this part of North Carolina is a lot slower than some other duty stations. Take advantage of the lack of traffic and small-town feel both on-base and out in town.
There are lots of places to explore that are within driving distance, or good for a long weekend, such as Myrtle Beach, the Outer Banks, Charlotte, and Asheville. These are all fantastic cities worth exploring, whether you are looking for kid-friendly activities or adults-only fun.
Wilmington is only 45 minutes away along a quiet highway. There are several museums there, including the USS North Carolina: a battleship now docked on the river and open to the public. And any shopping that the town of Jacksonville might be lacking can be found in Wilmington.
Kinston, Swansboro, Morehead City, and New Bern are all small cities within an hour’s drive with unique restaurants that feature locally caught seafood and locally grown produce.
Raleigh, the capital of North Carolina, is only 2 hours away. There are many fun places to explore such as Marbles Children’s Museum, Pullen Park, and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.
And don’t forget to check out Mike’s Farm for hayrides to pumpkin patches in the fall, Christmas trees in the winter, and strawberries in the spring!
MCAS New River’s customs and traditions are often swept in with Camp Lejeune, Cherry Point, and surrounding areas.
Squadrons from New River participate in both the static displays and flight demonstrations during the annual air show at MCAS Cherry Point.
There are also festivals and events on Camp Lejeune, including “BaseFest” every Independence Day, and Christmas concerts and other activities during the holidays.
Because MCAS New River is so close to Camp Lejeune, many of the usual base amenities are located on Camp Lejeune instead of New River.
There is a small commissary that, while not open as long as the Lejeune commissary, is much quieter and more peaceful to shop in. The Exchange is much smaller than Camp Lejeune’s and is more of a “basic necessities” place to shop. But Walmart is only 5 minutes away, and Target is only 20 minutes away.
The gym is very new and has a beautiful lap pool with free access for active duty personnel and families. There are also soccer, baseball, and football fields located near the barracks.
There is a beautiful marina located along the back of the base that has many different boats for rent; all you need to do is take an online class! There is also a boat launch and water access if you have your own boat.
They also have the typical base bowling alley, movie theater, child development centers, and fast food restaurants. There is an elementary school, although middle and high school students are bused to Lejeune.
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PCSgrades Author:Laura Schofield is a native of the Pacific Northwest currently living in the South. She has been married to a Marine her entire adult life. She is now a mother to two boys and a little girl, living this adventure of a lifetime!