by Medic’s Wife
Hello, folks! My name is Beth Goodwin and I’ve been an Army Wife since December, 2009. I’ve immersed myself in as much learning and networking as I could do. I hope that I’ll be able to answer most of your questions about Fort Stewart. My apologies as I’ve not included Hunter AAF in this post; HAAF Spouses – feel free to contribute! My home state is New Jersey, but before marrying my Soldier-Medic, I’ve lived in GA, AL, NC, and TX. Army post-wise, my first two months as a military spouse were spent on Fort Polk, LA before we PCS’d here to Fort Stewart in March, 2010.
The Third Infantry Division (Mechanized) is proud to call Fort Stewart home. From our Team Stewart website:
Fort Stewart is the largest Army installation east of the Mississippi River. It covers 279,270 acres, which include parts of Liberty, Long, Bryan, Evans and Tattnall Counties. The reservation is about 39 miles across from east to west, and 19 miles from north to south. Stewart has it all: size, terrain, climate, and location. It’s close to the East Coast, and two deep water ports: Savannah and Charleston, S.C. Tank, field artillery, helicopter gunnery and small arms ranges operate simultaneously throughout the year with little time lost to bad weather (http://www.stewart.army.mil/about/history.asp).
We also are home to some National Guard units and can accommodate about 50,000 reservists for their training needs (http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/facility/fort-stewart.htm).
Major General Robert B. Abrams commands our Division, and we are delighted to have his history brought into the Third Infantry Division’s storied history. Fun fact: The M1 Abrams tank was named in honor of Creighton Williams Abrams Jr., who is our Commander’s father. The 3rd ID’s nickname is “Rock of the Marne”, received during World War I. The 3rd Division, as it was called then, was placed along the Marne River near Chateau-Thierry and, while French troops retreated, our soldiers stood strong and beat back the German troops, thereby earning us the distinguished nickname. Our mascot is a bulldog named Rocky since infantry soldiers are often called “dog-face soldiers”. We also have our division song, “Dog-Face Soldier” which is sung by our soldiers every morning after Reveille. If you live on post and have your windows open during the cool spring and fall mornings, you can hear the soldiers yell, “CHARGE!” after the end of singing the Division’s song. You can find “Dog-Face Soldier” here: http://www.stewart.army.mil/faq/DogFaceSoldierSong.asp. Our Second Brigade Combat Team, the Spartans, made the famous “Thunder Run” from Kuwait into Baghdad during Operation Iraqi Freedom in early 2003. As you can see, we are proud of our history and our continued role as a rapid deployment post.
Our Army “home town” is Hinesville, GA – literally right outside the main gate. The seat of Liberty County, Hinesville has a bit over 30,000 residents, according to the 2000 Census. I’m figuring that figure has gotten a bit larger and probably does fluctuate depending on the various times of year when folks PCS in and out of Fort Stewart. We also seem to have a large number of service retirees who live in and around Hinesville, as well as closer up to Savannah. Convenient to Savannah and Tybee Island, Fort Stewart is also within easy driving distance of Statesboro (Home of Georgia Southern University), Brunswick and the Golden Isles of Georgia – Sea Island, St. Simon’s Island, Little St. Simon’s Island, and Jekyll Island. The closest major cities are Jacksonville, FL, located two hours to the south, and Atlanta, GA, located 4.5 hours northwest.
On-post housing is privatized and managed by Balfour Beatty Communities. We have 12 different neighborhoods located on the northern end of the post. We have a mix of old and new housing and neighborhoods are usually based upon rank and family need. Balfour Beatty also participated in an Army pilot program to provide better housing for single soldiers. Marne Point was built for single/geographical bachelor soldiers from E6-O4 and consists of 334 garden-style apartments. According to BBC’s website, Marne Terrace has been fully demolished and new family homes are currently being built on that site. The Bryan Villages (North and South) are in the process of being completely renovated on the inside, so while the outside might look dated and in less-than-stellar condition, be sure to ask if you are getting placed into a renovated apartment/house if you are assigned to one of the Village quarters. I know folks living in the renovated homes and they are quite satisfied with them. Other housing areas receive either inside or outside (or a combination of both) renovations to improve the living conditions. Some of these quarters look to be about circa 1970, so work is being done to make improvements in the older living areas. We have 2 community centers, 2 spray parks, 63 tot lots, 4 playgrounds, 6 parks and green spaces, and 12 basketball courts located around the housing areas. For more information, you can look here: http://www.fortstewartfamilyhousing.com/subpage.aspx?cid=30&k=neighborhoods.
I live in Isenhower Terrace and I love it even though it is from about the 1970s. There is more closet space than I know what to do with and the inside has been renovated. Right now, my husband and I don’t pay any extra for utilities although our entire BAH is taken out of his check each month. I have friends in Liberty Woods and have been informed that all of the new housing quarters do pay a portion of their electric bills each month. Wait time for housing depends on family size, rank, and how many troops are deployed at the time of your PCS. For example, when my husband and I arrived in March, 2010, three brigades were deployed and many spouses had gone home to be closer to family rather than stay on post. We waited one week for our apartment to be ready; however, we also have no children and knew we would be placed in an apartment rather than a house.
My recommendation is to start a dialogue with housing as soon as you know you’ll be coming to Fort Stewart so that they can give you updated wait times. Balfour Beatty will place families of children under the age of 5 in a 2-bedroom apartment unless an EFMP need is requested. The sex of the children doesn’t matter, so yes, your daughter and son will be sharing a bedroom until one of them hits age 5. That has come to be quite a surprise to those arriving on post to find out they’re not getting the house that they requested. We also have mandatory recycling here on post and garbage cans specifically for recycled waste are provided to each resident quarters. Garrison Command is taking this specific Army policy very seriously and consequences can include the solider receiving a reprimand from his or her command for the family’s failure to comply with proper recycling procedures and policies.
Fort Stewart does have a “no aggressive breed” policy for dogs, so you may want to check with Housing to ensure that your dog’s breed is allowed on post. Other policies include:
- No hanging clothes or rugs on your balconies or over your back yard fences;
- No parking on the sidewalks or grassy areas in front of buildings;
- Holiday decorations can be placed no more than 30 days in advance of the holiday and n must be taken down the day immediately following the holiday;
- No rooftop holiday decorations;
- Age-based curfews and in-home child supervision rules (punishable by UCMJ rules);
- Quiet hours from 2200-0800 (no doing laundry, vacuuming, or creating a disturbance);
- Permission to have an in-home business (except child care – that has its own set of policies) must be received from Housing – this includes Avon, Mary Kay, Tupperware, etc. Door-to-door solicitation is prohibited.
Off-post housing in Hinesville can be expensive, up to $1200/month for a 3-BR house depending on the area of town. Because Fort Stewart was in line to get a fifth brigade combat team (which fell through), the post and Hinesville lawmakers worked out agreements for new housing areas conveniently located just outside the Airport Road gate. Called “Independence”, these homes and apartments are new within the past 5 years and many have immediate availability. You can find information about The Columns at Independence here: http://www.columnsapartments.com/TheColumnsatIndependence/Factsheet.aspx. I wasn’t able to get any of the housing development information. If you are willing to drive about 10-15 minutes away from post, you can find houses to rent or buy in quieter, newer developments along the outskirts of Hinesville. While Hinesville itself can be expensive, the outskirts have homes that can be rented or purchased for payments around $800/month and up. Crime is an issue in Hinesville – 13 known gangs call the city home and some neighborhoods have higher rates of drugs, burglaries, and home break-ins than others. Many military families tend to live on the outskirts of the city where some developments are almost completely retired or active duty military and crime isn’t as big of a factor out there as it is closer into town. The towns of Midway, Ludowici, and Richmond Hill are also areas where families choose to live if they don’t wish to live on Fort Stewart. Midway and Richmond Hill can be expensive. All three are within a 30 minute drive of Fort Stewart. Areas of Richmond Hill and Midway can run anywhere from $1000-$1300/month for a 2- or 3-BR house. Glennville is also about 30 minutes from Fort Stewart and some families choose to live out there. I wasn’t able to get in touch with my Glennville folks to get ideas on housing prices. The rental/buying market all depends on the economy, how many folks are PCSing in or out of Fort Stewart, and how far folks are willing to drive back and forth from work or from needed facilities on post each day.
The Commissary gets a rating of 6. Their major faults seem to be the lack of fresh produce, vegetables, and meats, small aisles, and, at times, limited selection of goods. The produce and vegetable issues have been addressed by consumers numerous times, and I don’t place all of the blame on the distributors. Having watched some of the workers in those areas, I feel that much of the problem is the fact that selections aren’t rotated; therefore, some things – like cartons of strawberries – can sit on the bottom of the display for so long all of the fruit is rotten. There are not enough carts that can secure two children, so families tend to use multiple carts – one for the kids, one for the groceries. If the spaceship carts are used to hold children and groceries, their width makes for difficult passing down the aisles on busy shopping days. For some reason, the Commissary feels the need to have a display of goods in open cardboard boxes going down the middle of most of the frozen food aisles and that always leads to cart traffic jams because it cuts the width of the aisle in half. Comparing prices to the local Wal-Mart, you will definitely save money on brand-name items if you shop at the Commissary. They’ve also listened to customer request and brought in more organic foods and dairy products, gluten-free products, and organic health and beauty items. They have also increased the selection of locally grown or organic beef that is stocked. I do find that, depending on the day I go shopping, the meat selection can be limited and often times, I find that I’m purchasing meat that is so close to the “sell by” date that I’ve had it go bad in the fridge within a couple of days of purchase. I tend to buy my meat at the Wal-Mart because their selection is better and fresher, even though you save more money at the Commissary.
I rate the PX at a 7. The food court is pretty standard but I feel it is over-priced. The selection of clothing is fairly small to non-existent for women’s plus sizes; however, if you don’t need a plus size, you can usually find some cute outfits at good prices. While not a designated Coach store, the PX does offer Coach bags at fairly reasonable prices, along with brand-name cosmetics. I would like the book section to be a bit larger, and I’d prefer that the gun section not be right against the toy section for kids – that gets a bit awkward. Of course, my favorite is the Starbucks! However, inside the PX, Clothing Sales is large and has excellent stock in a variety of sizes. The beauty salon is surprisingly good in both skill of the hairdressers and price. Kiosks are plentiful and rotate about every couple of months, so there is always a nice selection of hand-made products from vendors who routinely come to Fort Stewart. We also have a GameStop and a GNC inside the PX, as well as a small alteration shop right next to Clothing Sales that will sew on patches or alter uniforms at reasonable prices.
I’ve given MWR a 4. While there are a great many offerings for families and BOSS-sponsored programs, those of us with no children have no activity selections from which to choose. The staff is often rather unpleasant and they tend to act as if they are being bothered when questioned about ticket prices or accommodations for trips offered. They are also quite difficult to reach by phone and they do not, at all, respond to emails. Suggestions or requests for married couples to be able to attend BOSS events go unanswered.
Army Community Service (ACS) rates an 8 in my book. They have a great variety of classes and the instructors are fabulous! I have yet to be disappointed in any course for which I’ve registered. My only issue is that some of the reception area staff is less than pleasant, and since they are the first faces one sees when entering any of the ACS buildings they really need to brush up on their customer service skills. One of the perks of our ACS is that you can register for courses online and they also put their calendar of classes online for a 3-month time frame. They not only post the offerings at Fort Stewart, they list the Hunter AAF offerings as well.
We do have an active Spouses’ Club called Marne Community Club (MCC). Annual dues are $30 and meetings are held every second Thursday of the month at Club Stewart. Luncheon fees are $13 each meeting as Club Stewart requires MCC to rent the room, so the lunch fee covers the room cost. The club is open to spouses of all ranks and newcomers are always welcome. Dress is typically casual; however, Fort Stewart dress codes are enforced in all post establishments. Most of the women get a bit dressed up (such as sandals and sundresses in the summertime, slacks and blouses in the cooler weather months) for the meetings. The MCC also runs the post’s Shop of the Marne, which features hand-crafted items, and proceeds from the Shop go directly to MCC Community Grants and Scholarship funds. The Club is always looking for new faces, so don’t be shy – go to one of the meetings and see if you’d like to become part of the Marne Community Club! This is a great way to meet new folks as well as find volunteer opportunities around post.
Things to do on post include camping, hunting, and fishing, swimming (seasonal), horseback riding, bowling, catch a movie, or spend some time at the day spa. Holbrook pond is popular in the summer for parties and cookouts. Screened-in gazebos can be rented if a group wishes to have a party out at the pond. MWR also rents paddleboats and has a facility there at the pond to make renting and returning easier. RV and boat storage is also at this facility. Because ponds and hunting areas are located within our live-fire training ranges, anyone who plans on being out to hunt, fish, or camp is required to let Pass and Permits know their date of arrival, location of camp, and date of departure so they can be sure to let the Range Control folks know to maintain everyone’s safety. We also do have alligators in Holbrook pond (and surrounding ones), so if “no swimming” signs are posted, adhere to them! Some annual post events include Easter Egg hunts/rolls, July 4th festivals and concerts, Fall/Halloween festivals, and we just finished up with our post Christmas tree lighting and Holiday Extravaganza. Housed in the PX parking lot, live music was featured along with a skating rink and vendors selling holiday wares. Hayrides were also offered around post and two concerts topped off the weekend (Hinder and Ludacris).
Off-post, there’s a wide variety of things to do depending on how far you wish to drive. Hinesville offers an annual Chili Cook-Off, Lunchtime Concerts in the Park, Oktoberfest, National Night Out celebration, a Christmas Parade, and an annual Blues and BBQ event. Savannah is one of the oldest cities in Georgia and offers all sorts of tours around areas of the city, including ghost tours. There are walking tours through the various parks offered depending on the time of year. The city also hosts a St. Patrick’s Day party weekend and turns the Savannah River green in honor of St. Patrick. Pirate Fest is another popular city event held out on Tybee Island. Jacksonville is home to the NFL team Jacksonville Jaguars and tickets are available for most games. The Jacksonville Zoo is a popular day trip, and the city hosts a variety of concerts at venues located around the city. With an active nightlife, good shopping, and great restaurants, a weekend getaway trip to Jacksonville is a popular alternative to Savannah or the beaches along the GA coast. Theater, ballet, and symphony offerings are popular things to do in either Atlanta or Jacksonville. Atlanta hosts the NFL Falcons, the NBA Hawks, the MLB Braves, and the NHL Thrashers. Concerts of all kinds are also found in Atlanta, as well as fine dining and a varied nightlife. Savannah hosts a minor league baseball team, the Sand Gnats – a Class A Affiliate of the NY Mets. For those who love baseball but don’t want to drive to Atlanta, pay MLB ticket prices (or find your favorite game sold out), as well as book a hotel for one or two nights, a trip to watch the Sand Gnats is both a fun alternative to the Braves and much more affordable.
The Liberty County School System encompasses a pre-K center, 8 elementary schools, 3 middle schools, and 2 high schools. Where you live on post will determine which middle school and high school your children will attend. Children who live on post will attend one of the DoD elementary schools and the school attended will depend on which area of housing quarters you will live. Right now, Fort Stewart has 3 elementary schools with a fourth one scheduled to be built (if not already in the process of being constructed). The DoD schools teach pre-K to 6th grade; pre-K is half-day sessions. The on post schools do not require the students to wear uniforms. For families living on post, the middle school that all Fort Stewart children attend is Midway Middle School. Uniforms are required for all students and bus service is provided to and from the various quarters around post. Again, depending on your location on Fort Stewart, your children will attend either Liberty County High School or Bradwell Institute. Student uniforms are required for all students at both high schools and bus transportation is provided to and from each school location. If you’re interested in the high school your children will attend, you can check out the Liberty County School System’s School Locator found here: http://www.liberty.k12.ga.us/Locator/.
Off-post pre-K is available as is off-post private schools in Hinesville and the surrounding areas. The average cost of private school tuition is approximately $5000 per school year. Various financial aid opportunities are offered to military families, and each school has its own financial aid department that can assist with the options available. All private schools will require student uniforms to be worn. I don’t have information about transportation to and from Fort Stewart, but the schools will be able to tell you should you decide to go the private school route.
Fort Stewart has the SFC Paul R. Smith Army Education Center (AEC) located a mile or two from the main gate. Soldiers and family members can go into the AEC and discuss educational goals, financial aid options, and even get a plan for a course of study developed. Soldiers also attend job-related classes at the center. Five colleges currently hold classes at the AEC while Armstrong Atlantic State University has a Liberty County campus in Hinesville. Colleges that offer courses at the AEC include Savannah Technical College, Central Texas College, Columbia College, Webster University, and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Located in Statesboro, about an hour from Ft. Stewart is Georgia Southern University. Savannah is home to a variety of universities, colleges, and technical colleges. Armstrong Atlantic State University offers associate level up through master’s level degree programs. For those considering going to nursing school, AASUs Bachelor of Science in Nursing program is top-notch. South University, St. Leo University, and Savannah State University are also located in the city. Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah Technical College, and Altamaha Technical Institute round out the list of schools located in the Fort Stewart/Savannah area. You can find more information here: http://www.stewart.army.mil/services/education/educationcolleges.asp.
If you’re a fan of authentic German food, you have to go to Zum Rosenhof Restaurant located across from the courthouse in downtown Hinesville. Everything in the establishment is authentic from the beer and wine selection, to the various appetizers and entrees, right down to the Black Forest Cake and other desserts. Another downtown Hinesville secret (well, secret to most Ft. Stewart folks) is Uncommon Grounds, an absolutely wonderful coffee shop and café! These folks make great sandwiches and salads for lunch or an afternoon snack, and they have great muffins and goodies for breakfast or any time snack. They have a notebook full of coffee concoctions that they can make for you and most can be served either hot or cold (like Starbucks’ Frappucinos). If you’re a fan of frozen hot chocolate, they have it! Once you go here, you’ll be hard pressed to go to the PX Starbucks unless you’re in a hurry or you don’t want to go off post. Here in Hinesville, we have Applebee’s and Chili’s, the usual fast food places and Chinese buffets, and one fantastic Mexican restaurant called Rodeo. They have great food at great prices! Kobe Japanese Steakhouse serves up great food at reasonable prices in a hibachi-style atmosphere. We also have Baldino’s Giant Jersey Subs right outside of the main gate and they are awesome. If you have a Baldino’s sub, you’ll never eat at any other sub shop again. In Richmond Hill, there’s the usual fast food places plus a great little chain restaurant called Zaxby’s. I hear that Jalapeno’s is also a good Mexican restaurant, but I’ve not eaten there yet.
Savannah has everything from fast food to sit-down restaurants. Longhorn Steakhouse, Outback, Olive Garden, Houlihan’s – name the chain restaurant and Savannah probably has it. There are other eateries scattered around the city, especially down by River Street. If you want a little bit of haunted history with your dining, go to Moon River Brewing Company on West Bay Street (and if you’re a Ghost Adventures fan, you’ll remember that this restaurant was featured in one of their shows). Moon River has a good variety of appetizers, entrees, and desserts along with their micro-brewed beers to compliment your food choices. River Street has quite a few great places to eat. Jalapeno’s first restaurant was opened in Savannah and while it looks like nothing special on Hwy. 204, it’s supposed to be one of the best Mexican restaurants in the city. Savannah Candy Kitchen has two locations in the city, one of them down on River Street. If you’re a fan of all things sweet, a trip to Savannah Candy Kitchen is a must.
As far as shopping goes, Hinesville has Walmart and Lowe’s as the big chain stores, as well as a couple of GameStop’s (one located in the PX) and a Bath and Body Works. Dollar General and Family Dollar stores are also found around the town. Grocery stores include Walmart, Kroger, and Food Lion (a new, larger store is located out on Airport Road). Richmond Hill is home to a Kroger Signature Store and a brand new Publix. Again, Savannah has everything from Publix and Kroger to Starbucks, PetSmart, Target, and Home Depot. Large shopping centers house Ulta, Books-A-Million and Best Buy. Two malls are located on the south side of the city – very convenient to Fort Stewart: Savannah Mall and Oglethorpe Mall. Both are located on Hwy 204 and include stores like Dillard’s, JC Penny, Sears, Belk, Bass Pro Shop, and Barnes and Noble. If you want to drive a little bit farther, head down I-95 South to Darien and go to the Preferred Outlets where you can find Coach, Gap Outlet, Polo Ralph Lauren Factory Store, Tommy Hilfiger, Nautica, Nike Factory Store, Quiksilver, and Sag Harbor stores. A little further down and you can shop in all of the various malls and stores located in Jacksonville or head north and go shopping in Hilton Head, SC.
With the economy the way it is, the job market around Fort Stewart is tight; however, that probably depends on the type of work you do or are looking for. Savannah is an option for folks that don’t mind the commute to and from work. The moment you know you are PCS’ing to this post, you might want to get your resumes out on CareerBuilder.com and Monster.com, as well as checking local postings for Hinesville, Ludowici, Richmond Hill, and Savannah.
Summers are hot and humid, with daily temps reaching into the high 90s and humidity readings in the 80-95% ranges. The spring and summers get the most rain, with thundershowers or storms occurring almost daily during the summer afternoons. In the winter, daily temps can be in the 40s-50s with lows in the 30s. We’re in the middle of a cold snap, so we have had night-time temps down in the low 20s, which is not typical for this location. While most folks feel we don’t have four distinct seasons, you can notice differences between spring, summer, fall, and winter – although fall and spring might be somewhat abbreviated.
The best aspect of this post…hmmmmm…I may be biased because I like it here. I like the weather, the location to Savannah and the beaches, and the convenience of going into Savannah if I feel like it or being able to shop for what I need around here if I don’t. Probably the worst aspect of post is some of the housing (and I’ll add Balfour Beatty Communities into that mix). I’m not keen on the folks in either of the management offices, nor am I satisfied with how they handle complaints or work orders – and their maintenance crew pales in comparison to civilian apartment complexes I’ve lived in over the years. Seriously, some of the existing quarters need to be demolished and rebuilt from the ground up. The new housing could be of better quality construction and materials because the walls are thin and people have reported instances of their balconies caving in with just one or two people on them. Cheap doesn’t always mean good when it comes to Housing. As far as the best aspect of Hinesville: Their unwavering support of our Division. Between offering discounts to our soldiers and doing simple things like putting up “Welcome home” banners, Hinesville is proud of our soldiers and their families.
I’ll leave you with some links and offer an early welcome to Fort Stewart for those of you getting ready to move here. If you have any questions, feel free to leave them on this thread. Again, you Hunter AAF folks – if you have stuff to contribute, please do so! I know nothing about your post and I didn’t want to make assumptions.
Team Stewart Homepage: http://www.stewart.army.mil/homepage/default.asp
ACS: http://www.stewart.army.mil/DMWR/acs/default.asp (you’ll find the calendar and class registration links on this page)
Brigade Combat Teams: http://www.stewart.army.mil/units/home.asp
(Many of the brigades, as well as some of the individual units, have their own Facebook pages as well)
You can also follow the 3rd ID on Facebook and Twitter – links should be on the Team Stewart home page.