U.S. Marines fire mortar rounds at Kaneohe Bay Range Training in Hawaii. Source: Flickr.
Currently, there are around 220,000 Marines, serving both actively and in the Reserve. While these numbers are higher than ever before, there are still five soldiers for every Marine. But what the USMC lacks in numbers, they make up for in willingness to serve, fight and sacrifice for the United States of America.
Marines often find themselves stationed on Navy bases and other installations. But there are designated Marine Corps bases — in fact, 35 total around the world.
Here are five stateside bases that are most popular among today’s Marines:
Check out our list of top overseas bases if you want to go international.
5. Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort – South Carolina
MCAS Beaufort is headquarters of Marine Aircraft Group 31 in Beaufort, SC. The entrance is adorned by fixed-wing fighters, including the FJ-3 Fury, A-4C Skyhawk, F/A-18 Hornet and more. Their motto? “The Noise You Hear, is the Sound of FREEDOM.”
Commissioned in 1943, MCAS Beaufort sits upon 7,000 acres around 70 miles southwest of Charleston. The site saw action from both the Revolutionary and Civil wars. This is the only place in the world where pilots train to fly the F-35B.
The South Carolina Lowcountry region is known for its natural environment, beautiful beaches and subtropical weather. The area is very military-populated and friendly, and the local economy is dominated by tourism and retail.
The median home cost in Beaufort is $210,000; while the Marine Corps base is small, slow southern beach living can be juxtaposed with the liveliness of Charleston and other nearby cities.
4. Marine Corps Base Quantico – Virginia
The “Crossroads of the Marine Corps”… these are the words that define MCB Quantico. Covering over 55,000 acres in the Quantico region of Virginia, this base houses nearly 6,000 military personnel, and many more FBI and DEA workers, as their principal training facilities are located here. Overall, it’s home to more than 28,000 people.
MCB Quantico resides in an area with a storied history. Near the original Jamestown Settlement circa 1608, this Virginian beach location also saw the Revolutionary and Civil wars. The installation was established in 1917 and has been active since.
Cost of living in Quantico, VA is only slightly higher than the national average, with median home prices sitting at around $208,000. It’s only about an hour’s drive to our nation’s capital, and near other hubs like Alexandria, Bethesda and Baltimore.
The summers here are warm and muggy, but the winters reach below-freezing temperatures. There are very separate and distinct seasons. Average temps range from 28 F to 87 F year-round.
3. Marine Corps Air Station Miramar – California
Located 10 miles north of downtown San Diego, MCAS Miramar is actually best-known for its former U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School, with the TOPGUN training program (which, yes, inspired the movie Top Gun).
Right now, MCAS Miramar is occupied by the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. It’s been around since World War II and has deployed in every major American conflict. This diverse unit pilots fixed-wing, rotary-wing, tiltrotor aircraft and drones.
One of the biggest perks of Miramar is that it’s a vacation destination. While many don’t appreciate the higher cost of living and tourist population, San Diego is home to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches and nearly 300 days of pure sunshine. It’s also fairly close in proximity to LA and other Cali hubs — meaning there’s endless things to do!
Area activities include Sea World, the San Diego Zoo, LegoLand, Disneyland, the USS Midway, Seaport Village and tons more.
2. Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton – California
Another California base, MCB Camp Pendleton is on the SoCal coast, bordered by Oceanside and in San Diego County. It’s one of the largest Marine Corps bases in the U.S.
There’s a crap ton of military bases in the San Diego area — and California in general — so finding military-friendly businesses and things to do isn’t very hard. Just like with MCAS Miramar, the cost of living is much higher than the national average, but if you want to be in an activity-filled and gorgeous beach town, this is it!
Pendleton has been active since 1942 and houses the I Marine Expeditionary Force; it’s referred to as the “Warfighting MEF” for its constant involvement in major armed conflicts. There are also various training commands on Pendleton, and sailors and Marines who’ve enlisted east of the Mississippi will attend basic training here.
Don’t confuse Miramar or Camp Pendleton with Twentynine Palms — around three hours north, this USMC installation is cripplingly hot and one of the most hated duty stations in the Marine Corps.
1. Marine Corps Base Hawaii – Hawaii
MCB Hawaii, formerly MCAS Hawaii Kaneohe Bay, is on the island of Oahu and located between Kailua and Kaneohe. It is sometimes referred to as K-Bay, and home to around 10,000 people (per 2010 Census).
Hawaii is a beloved destination for civilians and Marines alike, and Oahu is no stranger to military activity, with a joint Navy-Air Force base and Army posts all occupying the tiny island. What draws people in is its tropical climate, gorgeous beaches and jungle scenery, and sense of community you can’t get anywhere else. Average year-round temps go from 63 F to 89 F.
Similar to SoCal is Oahu’s high cost of living; however, this is added to the high price of food and store-bought goods, as well as the limited housing in such a small but desired market. Make sure to request on-base housing as soon as you can. Fortunately, you do get overseas pay stationed in Hawaii.
MCB Hawaii houses the 3rd Marine Regiment, Marine Aircraft Group 24, Combat Logistics Battalion 3 and 3rd Radio Battalion. With all it has to offer, it’s no surprise it’s one of the best Marine Corps bases in the States.