Your Name (if you would like it to appear): Carrie Stecklein
Base Name: Camp Frank D. Merrill
Base Location: Dahlonega, Ga Base of the blue ridge mountains.
How long have you been here? (give years please, ex. 2003-present)2002-present. We were told the max was two years, that was over five years ago!lol.
What is housing like? On-post? (waiting list, conditions, etc.) Off-post? Any areas to stay away from? Average price to rent or buy?
On post housing is the nicest military housing I have ever seen. Reminds me a little of something you’d see on desperate housewives! There are only 44 houses total but a waiting list of just a month or two. Off post housing just varies depending on the area of town. South Lumpkin County is probably the best area though, near Dawsonville.
Rate the PX & Commissary.
Well… The px is tiny, when I say tiny I mean, you don’t really need a shopping cart. You can purchase liquor, tobacco, comics, army gear, gps, and snacks, that is about it. But the lady that works in there does offer check cashing privileges and money orders and that kind of stuff. However, she isn’t the friendliest crayon in the box! The commissary is also tiny! They have a pretty good case sale about once a year and they carry produce pretty cheap. I do like to shop there sometimes for the simple fact that I am the only person in the building except for the cashier! If they don’t have an item you want, they will order it for you though. They are very friendly there.
Activities on base?
You can rent a pontoon boat or a kayak, hike, rent climbing gear, and use the gym. There was a pool, but they covered it over so now army families get to use the city pool for free. It is pretty nice. Lots of antique stores. And thrift stores (they are pretty nice too)
Active Spouses Club?
There is a Ranger wives club, they meet for coffees and socials once or twice a month. day care is provided, and they take part in the Ranger open house that takes place once a year. There are only about 150 families here that are army active duty so it makes for a close knit wives club. Most of the women here don’t seem to care about their spouses rank. So there isn’t a senior wives club or anything, they all meet together.
Things to do in area?
Hiking, mountain biking, boating, fishing, shopping at the outlet mall, and climbing. Scrapbooking is pretty big around here too.
Long Branch and Blackburn are really good schools, the high school is decent too. Westminster is the best private school in the area, but pricey. J.B. Jones is the head start or pre-k program, my four year old goes there, we like it, and it is actually better than some of the private pre-k’s. (Steer clear of Oak Grove day care, I won’t say why, you judge for yourself)!
Any colleges in area?
North Ga college and state university, aka the military college of ga. Quite a few cadets. They aren’t’ rowdy like a lot of colleges, campus is clean, nice, and friendly.
Jobs? (on post and off)
There may be 10 (at the most) civilian jobs on post. Off post mainly tourist places like hotels and dining spots, there is a local hospital, most people commute to Atlanta, only 50 minutes, and it is worth the pay.
Favorite aspect of this base/surrounding city?
It’s in a friendly mountain town. Most locals are very patriotic and appreciative of the military, lots of vendors give military discounts, the military families here are pretty close knit.
Least favorite aspect?
tourists, cyclists, and guys on crotch rockets. In the fall they come to see the leaves in the mountains, in the spring and summer they come for the gold rush festival and the bear on the square festival. Tour de Georgia comes through once a year, but the cyclists take over the roads, which are curvy and if you are in a hurry, forget it! The motorcycle guys go way too fast for the roads, they are daredevils, I thank God we haven’t been hit by one yet!
Any other tips?
A really common misconception is that because the guys here are non-deployable there is more family time. Let’s put it this way, when students are here, your husband is gone. When students are gone, your husband is home. But, because of the size and number of guys here, the base is really laid back. It really doesn’t feel like an army base. There is one mp who watches the gate and that is it. My husband has taken our kids to work with him here and there. No one minds, and most of the guys do from time to time if they are just around the company and not out teaching. The hours they work are crazy most of the time, for instance my hubby will go in and work from 4 am to 9 am the next day. get off, come home, and the following day work 2pm-midnight. There is no rhyme or rhythm.
Dahlonega has a really active park and rec program for the kids. I nice play ground down town that is fenced, they are pet friendly, and I don’t know if it is good or bad, but rarely do you go anywhere and not see someone who you know. There is a gym in town, they give some serious military discounts and don’t require a contract. Some army wives teach the classes there and they have child care! The nearest indoor mall is in Gainesville which is a really dirty town about 25 min. away, the mall is no different. I go to the outlet mall in Dawsonville, they have really good stores, but if it is cold, it isn’t any fun. You can go down to Atlanta though! The local hometown bank isn’t that great, UCB is good, and Wachovia. The festivals would be fun, if they were not tourist overrun. We try to go really early in the morning or late at night. Best ever place to eat is El Campesino in Dawsonville, 12 minutes away. Dahlonega Country day is the best day care around. But they are really strict on illnesses and supplies and payments.