Mark and I went to an assignment brief last week, given by his Commander, Rico. (That's his call sign. The guys all go by their call signs in the squadron, not their names.) Anyway, we found out two weeks ago, that instead of finding out the drop (list of possibly bases we can go to next) by the end of August, we aren't going to get it until November 2nd. We're kinda bummed, but I guess in the grand scheme of things, it doesn't much matter if we find out where we're going next now, or a few months from now. I know I've told many of you our possibilities for the next bases, but I'm sure you don't remember what they all are if I have told you. I can't even keep them straight sometimes. In no particular order, here are our possible choices for the next base we'll go to:
Spangdahlem, Germany Located 2 hours almost directly south of Dusseldorf, Germany, this base is most likely our first choice. It's a stones throw away from Luxembourg, France and Belgium. It's about 45 mins from Ramstein AB, which is also in Germany, and is much bigger than Spang. However, they're closing down one of the F-16 squadrons at this base, so the likelihood of this base being in the drop is slim to none unfortunately. We can still dream though.
Aviano, Italy Located 1.5 hours north of Venice and 6 hours from Rome. Mark's brother is studying at the Vatican in Rome for the next 5 years, so this would be a fun base for us to go to also. However, I've heard from other wives that there's not much for kids to do in this area and that most of the businesses close at 5pm every day. They also told us in the brief that it's very expensive to live off-base. It's do-able, just really expensive. We'd have LOTS of travel opportunities here also though since we'd be really close to Austria (my favorite country I've visited so far) and fairly close to Switzerland and Slovenia.
Osan, South Korea Located about an hour and 45 min south of Seoul. Rico had been to this base and he loved it. He said the base is amazing and big and has tons of amenities on it, and the surrounding area is also very nice. He said there are lots of outdoor activities to do nearby - mainly biking and hiking and that there is lots of cheap shopping to do there also. He can get assigned a 1 year unaccompanied remote tour here, or he can get a 2-3 year accompanied tour. Lots of people travel to Japan and Thailand and other places in Asia while in South Korea. He did say that Korea is "the land of the not quite right", and that Korean's don't really have much concept of personal space.
Kunsan, South Korea Located about 4 hours south of Osan, on the coast of Korea. This is a remote tour, meaning that Mark would be expected to go there by himself for one year. (They don't give accompanied tours to Kunsan.) He can choose to bring Abbie and me over, on our own dime, if he wants. But even if we do go over there, the commander there can decide that families can't be in the dorms so we'd have to go home, or if we get a place off-base, they can decide that the guys need to stay on base for weeks at a time. This is probably our last choice as far as assignments go.
Misawa, Japan Located in the northeast tip of Japan, right on the coast, about 4.5 hours north of Tokyo. They said that it gets very cold at this base and is almost always rainy and/or foggy. Mark would do most of his flying over the Pacific Ocean. They said it's pretty expensive to get back home from Japan, but that many people travel to Australia and Hawaii bc they're fairly close.
Hill AFB, UT Located about a half hour north of Salt Lake City. Obviously Salt Lake City has everything and anything you could ever hope to imagine. Rico said the skiing in the area is amazing and the national park that are close by are really neat too. He said it's a little different because the number of Mormon's in the area, but I think Mark and I would fit in well there. I've looked at houses in this area and there are LOTS of really nice houses for rent within our housing allowance. This is most likely our first choice of bases in the US.
Shaw AFB, SC Located in Sumter, SC, between Columbia and Charleston. The main thing I remember about this base is he said that they deploy a lot because they're part of some unit that handles deployments. And Sumter is kind of a smaller town, so you have to go to Columbia for good shopping (which is only about 30 mins away). This was way up on our list until I heard the bit about deployments. Now I'd be really nervous to go here...
Those are the 7 bases we could be stationed at. There is a small possibility that there would be an active duty guard slot, where he would fly with the Air National Guard in either Vermont or SC. We don't know anything about these bases yet, but Mark would probably prefer flying with the guard over any of the active duty bases, so he'll probably put that as his first choice if one is available. However, I think there are quite a few other guys in his class (of 8 people) who would also put that first... We'll just have to see how it goes.
In Mark's flying news, he's been crazy busy still. This week he has 3 flights, 4 sims and classes 4 days... So much for slowing his training down after the 17th. I think them telling the guys they'd have 2-3 events a week at the beginning of this course is a crock of s***, but oh well. His graduation date is Jan 16, but their goal was to get them done by Dec 15 and so far they are a full 20 days ahead of their goal.... At the rate they're going now, he'll be done mid-October. =) I just feel bad for him because doing so much in training and having a baby in the middle of it all on top of his crazy schedule is a lot for him to handle. But he's doing really well and staying WAYYY more dedicated to it than I ever would be. He shot the gun on the F-16 for the first time today and he had a lot of fun with that. He described it as someone starting a chain saw right next to your ear. I guess it startled the heck out of him the first time he shot the gun, but the 2nd time was much better. I'm hoping to go on the tanker ride next Friday to watch him do mid-air refueling. We can take pictures so if I go, I'll be sure to post those!