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Camp Pendleton & Naval Base San Diego | Duty Station Spotlight

about the series

Each time I make a duty station print, I find myself researching the installation and wondering what it is like to live there.  The Duty Station Spotlight Series provides first hand insight into duty stations around the US (and world) and was born out of my curiosity and inclination to research everything. Each post in the series is a q&a with a military family member who has experienced the community first hand. Our hope is if you PCSing to a location or already settled that the articles provide you with a bit of guidance and some gems around town!

Interested in contributing your own experience for this spotlight series?    Head over to the Duty Station Q&A to submit your experience for consideration in our spotlight series.

Did your Marine family just receive orders to report to Camp Pendleton? Are you a Navy family that is headed to Naval Base San Diego? Doing a bit of anticipatory research on where the military might be sending your family next?

This week we are featuring both of these duty stations on the coast of California. Our contributor for this weeks post in the Duty Station Spotlight series is from Jenna Bert of Confessions of a Military Spouse. She and her family have been stationed stationed in San Diego since August 2015.


THE BASICS

INITIAL THOUGHTS

What first ran through your head when you found out you were moving to San Diego?

When we initially moved to San Diego, we were stationed in 29 Palms. Most people would have been excited to be leaving the “stumps” of 29 Palms but instead I felt sadness. I was very attached to 29 Palms and didn’t want to leave. It reminded me a lot of home so when we heard we were going to San Diego I was overwhelmed, sad and upset. I didn’t want to go to San Diego, it was big and full of people and there was SO much to do…. how could people actually like it there?

CURRENT IMPRESSION

After getting settled in do you still have the same impression?

My initial impression definitely held true for while. My husband deployed shortly after we arrived in San Diego and I went straight to work. I didn’t bother to make many friends because I had a daughter and a full time job. My daughter and I actually moved back home for a year (it’s al long story lol) but since we’ve been back (we were gone June 2017-June 2018) my experience has been totally different. We live in a completely different area, my daughter is in school, I’ve met some amazing friends and while I am still working I’m not working myself to “death” so I have time for a balance of myself, my daughter and my friends.

PREP

What did you do to prepare for moving to the duty station?

I honestly didn’t have a lot of time to prepare for the move. We found out we had 2 weeks to move from the time we got the orders until the time that my husband had to report. I also feel like that contributed to part of the reason I was so unhappy to leave… I didn’t have that time to really prepare.

TWO WEEKS!? Yikes.

What would you say is a must have to set up for success at this duty station?

My biggest recommendation for a must have before coming to San Diego is patience and an open mind. I feel like San Diego is a breed of their own and it can be really hard to feel like you fit in when you’re not from here.

HOME

Do you live on base, own a home or rent elsewhere?

We rent elsewhere. We did struggle to find a home that fit our main criteria and I feel like we actually got really lucky. The best piece of advice I can give another spouse is to make sure THEY are comfortable, really communicate with your spouse and just know that sacrifices on both ends will have to be made!

TRAVEL

Is Camp Pendleton Island easy to get to?

Well, my husband is actually the one that commutes to his duty station. We live probably 25-35 minutes from his duty station but chose to do that as a family because we knew he would be working long hours anyway, we wanted our daughter in one of the best school districts in Southern California and I needed to be close to her and my job!

WEATHER

Any tips for surviving through what mother nature has to bring to this part of California?

We unfortunately do not experience all four seasons. Being from the midwest, I really miss having all four seasons. It is nice not to have to deal with snow, ice, etc but I also miss having snow days and hanging out with my daughter all day!

CAMP PENDLETON + NAVAL BASE SAN DIEGO SPOTLIGHT MAP

Each of the locations around Camp Pendleton and Naval Base San Diego described below have been plotted on this google map. You can use the filters below to show only the locations you are interested in or open in google maps to save for later!

THE EATS

COFFEE

What is your favorite spot to grab a coffee at this duty station?

I’m sure I’m going to get a lot of flak for this and to be honest, now that I’m posed with this question I realize I should broaden my horizons but so far I have yet to venture too far outside of my kitchen or Starbucks!

BRUNCH

Is brunch a big deal around the duty station’s town? If so, where is your favorite spot and what do you order off the menu?

Ohhhh, if someone was to ask me to go to Brunch my first choice would be the Broken Yolk. There’s a few in San Diego but it’s not a chain restaurant like iHop or Denny’s. As far as my favorite from there… well, I’m pretty basic so it’s usually pancakes, waffles or french toast!

LUNCH

Whats the best spot for having a lunch?

One of my favorite places here in San Diego is a burger joint called Hodad’s. I absolutely love a good burger and Hodad’s would be my first choice of places to go! I’m sure there are many more places in San Diego I mean we do have Food Week here in San Diego!

SWEETS

What is your go to place to grab dessert?

While I am a sweets lover, I haven’t ventured out too much in San Diego specifically looking for a sweets place however, I did find Frost Me Gourmet in Seaport Village while my bestie was visiting and their cupcakes were AMAZING! I had the s’mores cupcake and it was delicious!

DATE NIGHT EATS

When you managed to align schedules to go out for a date with your husband, where are you headed?

Date Night…. wow, it’s been a while since that has happened. If we do date night, we generally go some place like Red Lobster or a chain restaurant like that. We are very basic people and like what we like and don’t tend to venture too far outside of our comfort zone. Although, one place I would like to try is the Rancho Bernardo Inn. I’ve heard amazing things about that place!

DRINK

Where is the best spot to grab a drink?

There are a few places I like to grab drinks. One of them is the Cork and Craft in San Diego, my job actually hosts meetings there once every 6-8 weeks and they always have a cool menu and the drinks are great which is to be expected since they are a brewery. The other brewery I really like is Ballast Point Brewery.


TO DO AROUND TOWN

ACTIVE

Where is your favorite place to work up a sweat?

There is an awesome gym in Oceanside (closer to Camp Pendleton) called MROC and it’s AMAZING! I race obstacle course races and on Saturdays they have an obstacle course simulation training that I love to do!

NATURE

Are there any nearby outdoor recreation areas you like to visit?

There are some spectacular places in San Diego to hike. I’ve personally hiked Torrey Pines and Cowles Mountain and they were both breathtaking! There are so many more I want to do like Potato Chip rock but I haven’t found the time yet!

FAMILY

If your family had to dream up the perfect outing together in your area, where are you headed?

Well, Disneyland isn’t too far from us (within driving distance) but it’s not my husband’s thing so my daughter and I generally go with friends but if it’s my husband, my daughter and I we are probably going to Legoland, Aquatica, SeaWorld, the zoo or the movies! There really is a TON of things for families to do here!

RAINY DAYS

Where is your go to place if the weather is calling for rain?

We generally go over to a friends house if it’s raining so the kids can play and the adults can converse with each other and unwind. There is a children’s museum I’ve heard is awesome, we just haven’t made it there yet! There are also Chuck E. Cheese and Dave & Buster’s close by. We also love to go to the movies and bowl!!

PAMPER

If you manage to sneak away for a few hours to spend time spoiling yourself where are you headed?

I’m either headed to get a facial by Tayler Costello at American Made Tans or I’m getting my hair done by Ashley Moore at Sunshine Salon and Spa or a lash lift by Stephanie at Sunshine Salon and Spa as well!


FINAL WORDS ON BEING STATIONED IN SAN DIEGO

What would you say to a military family who just received orders and is doing the frantic google search to learn all the things about moving to San Diego?

San Diego is HUGE and it can be extremely overwhelming. Everyone is going to have their own opinion and it can be hard to figure out what is best for you. My best advice is to get lots of advice on what you want to know, take it all with a grain of salt and use/apply what will work with/for your family! Also, use the military spouse resources available, there are SO many available for San Diego spouses and for duty station specific spouses!

Have you been stationed at Camp Pendleton or Naval Base San Diego? We would love to hear about your favorites around town! Let us know your experience stationed here in the comments below!

Jenna is the host of an amazing podcast, Confessions of a Military Spouse, that helps military spouses navigate this crazy life, provides as many resources as possible to help make military life easier and to discuss the true and sometimes difficult confessions of being a military spouse! You can also connect with her on Instagram. or Facebook.

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