You guys; we’ve officially been living in Alaska for five whole months. Five months. I feel like I always need to caveat posts like these with the fact that this move hasn’t been easy for any of us. This has absolutely, without a doubt, been the hardest move we’ve ever undertaken before (and that’s saying something because quarantining in South Korea was awful.) I think part of it is the fact that we love South Korea so much. Part of it is just the fact that America feels a little bit…less than it did before. Alaska has been a hard but beautiful blessing for us as a family though, and it’s drawn us really close to one another. We wanted to share five things you’ll love about Fort Wainwright today as we head into a full week of gratitude for Thanksgiving.
5 Things You’ll Love About Fort Wainwright
We made a concerted effort when we moved to Fort Drum in 2014 that we would hunt the good in every place, and we have. So, even with the challenges, there are absolutely things to love about Fort Wainwright. I promise! Ready?
The Winter Sports are Bar None
In a land where it’s winter nearly eight months out of the year, this is obviously a given. It goes beyond skiing and snowboarding though. There is snowshoeing, ski jouring, dogsledding and, of course, hockey. Lots of hockey. We’ve only just dipped our toes in the waters here, but that UAF Nanooks hockey game we went to? It was awesome, and we can’t wait for our next game.
It’s a Small, Close-Knit Community
You might be surprised to learn that Fairbanks is the second-largest city in Alaska, led only by Anchorage down south. Fort Wainwright is tiny. It’s absolutely the smallest post we’ve ever lived on, which is both a blessing and a curse, but the small-town vibe in Fairbanks is really nice. Neighbors become friends quickly, and there’s definitely a sense of community spirit here.
There is No Shortage of Activities Throughout the Year
You might think that, because it gets so cold so fast here, that there isn’t much to do in the winter. It’s actually the opposite. A lot of my Fort Wainwright bucket list items are best seen or experienced in the dead of winter! We’ve experienced our first taste of the Northern Lights, and we can’t wait to see the Yukon Quest go through our backyard this winter – literally.
Fort Wainwright Offers an Alaska Incentive Pay
Now, I feel like I should lead into this one with a warning. Things here in Alaska cost a lot – especially services. We knew about that so-called “Alaska tax” ahead of time, and it still absolutely slapped us in the fact. Back in 2020, the Army started offering a new Alaska incentive pay of up to $4,000 for service members with dependents ($2,000 for single soldiers) to prepare soldiers and their families for life in the Arctic. This payment is taxable, and is intended to offset the things you need to do to prepare, such as winterizing your vehicles (this cost us $618 each), buy winter gear, and more.
It’s a Nature-Lovers’ Dream
This place is wild. Literally. We love outdoor adventures everywhere we go, and the beauty of Alaska is that there is just so much to do outdoors. In our five months, we’ve hiked in Hatcher Pass, we explored Murphy Dome, and we experienced the beauty of fall in interior Alaska. Fort Wainwright doesn’t offer those huge, epic mountain hikes that we experienced at JBLM, but the hiking down south is spectacular. Be prepared to drive and adventure, and your options will be limitless.
The Bottom Line About Fort Wainwright
Like every station, Fort Wainwright has its pros and its cons, but those with a heart for adventure will likely love it here. Yes, the cold is taxing, and yes, we lose a lot of daylight quickly in the winter. You might be surprised to know, however, that the cold and the lack of daylight don’t bother us that much though. The biggest challenge here? Money. Cutting COLA (cost of living allowance) by 20% was absolutely ridiculous if you ask me, and many service members OCONUS are struggling. We are very blessed to be quite stable, but I’d be lying if I said we didn’t feel that hit, too.
We’re getting ready to welcome our first visitors here today – my parents!!! – and we can’t wait to share our adventures together soon!