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Best way to choose first base

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by macerhok macerhok (Member)

I am an ICU nurse and have made it into the navy. I can choose between 5 different bases. Most are midsized commands due to my experience. What is the best way to pick between them. Some of them are pensacola, camp lejune, and jacsonville.

I've actually been stationed at all three of the locations that you've mentioned (PCOLA, JAX, and Camp Lejeune). However, I didn't actually work at the hospital at Camp Lejeune (CL), so I cannot tell you about the hospital. One important thing to know about CL is that it is a Marine Corps base and is a bit more strict on rules than Naval bases. Also, anywhere you go out in town there will be Marines there (you can tell by their buzzed heads), so there isn't much you can do to get away from the military feel in CL. The area around the base seemed kind of country and redneck-ish when I was there. I guess if you like hunting, fishing, and mudding then that would be a good place for you. OR, if you enjoy strip clubs. There were plenty of those there when I went (I was also 8 years younger and single). Of course, all the strippers were married to the Marines. lol.

Pensacola was my first duty station. The hospital was nice. Not too big, not too small. It sits on its own little gated compound that is attached to a larger base. You have to drive off the hospital compound and then reenter the main compound in order to go to the commissary and exchange (the military grocery store and general goods store). Also, within a 5 minute drive there is a Naval air station where the Blue Angels fly a lot. I was an EMT there and use to see them fly all the time. As for the area, its fairly nice. You can actually go around town and not feel like you are bumping into other military people every 5 minutes like in CL. Also, they have a lot of nice places to eat and hang out. The beaches are a short distance from the base and as far as east-coast bases go, they are probably only second to Key West's beaches. Overall, I would recommend this duty station.

Jacksonville was the last duty station I worked at before I got out and came to nursing school. When I first arrived there I absolutely hated it. Granted I had just transferred from Guam - which was an AMAZING duty station - so it was already at a disadvantage. The problem was that the command's morale was so low and no one wanted to be there. The supervisors really didn't care about the individual worker, they just cared about increasing productivity and looking good for their own supervisors. That command caused A LOT of people to get out of the military. I was actually shocked by how many people were just like "screw it." Maybe things have changed. As for the hospital itself, it's a nice hospital. They just spent...I want to say 30ish million dollars on additions, so it's not bad. I know you said you are an ICU nurse. I only went in the ICU maybe 3 times the entire time I was there. All I can say is that it is on the third deck of the hospital right outside of the operating rooms, and I believe it was renovated as well. Can't remember how many beds it was, but I don't recall it being a huge ICU. Of course, if you want to work in a large ICU you need to go to one of the Big Three because everything else will be on a small scale and probably less advanced compared to them. As for the surrounding area, it's better than CL, but not as good as Pensacola. Traffic on the main road outside of base can be SLOW after work when everyone is trying to go home at once. Also, some of the other roads around town can be a huge pain in the arse around rush hour, but it depends on where you choose to live. Crime, from my experience, is worse here than any of the other duty stations mention. I don't know why, but Jacksonville can make some people crazy. lol. I remember one girl reported to the command and I was responsible for making sure she got checked in. Well, within days of being at the command she got murdered by her crazy ex-husband. A Chief got murdered directly across from base. A navy pilot got shot in his garage recently in a neighborhood north of base. I also knew a girl that got robbed at gunpoint while she was pregnant and the gunman aimed the weapon at her belly and told her that's where he'd shoot her if she didn't give him money. Crazy, huh. I don't mean to scare you away from that command, but I don't want to lie to you either. There are good parts of town, but you will pay more for rent and have to drive a bit further...which is what I do.

Anyway, the best way to decide which command is best for you is to decide what you want to get out of being at that particular command. I like to pick duty stations based on what there is to do around that place (hiking, diving, museums, attractions, etc.). There's no point in going to a boring duty station for 3 years, in my opinion. If you want to go to school, look and see if they have schools nearby that offer the classes you want. If you like a certain hobby, look to see if it's big in that area. If you have kids, look into the school system. Also, look at sites like Hotpads.com to see what kinds of living arrangements are available, their prices, and how far away from base they are. Basically, you just have to do a little bit or research and see which one fits your tastes because it'll be your home for about 3 years. Unless you know someone who currently works at one of those hospitals it's going to be hard to determine if your supervisors and coworkers are going to be good people to work with, but you can always research the rest.

Hope this helped.