Wow, where to start? Camp Shelby is something in itself. There is nothing normal or easy about being parked here. However, not everything is terrible, as many make you think. It just takes some understanding.
The first thing to understand is that this is an MS National Guard post. The government federalized it for the training of troops heading for war. This means that there is Active Duty, Reserve (TPU, Mobilized and AGR) and National Guard (Mobilized). Money jackpots don’t mix and learning how it all works can be confusing. Here’s what you need to know, as a spouse, before you leave.
There is no housing. You will live outside the publication. However, there is a housing office with a housing program. People in the community can put their homes on the Camp Shelby list. They rent to the government and Camp Shelby puts the soldiers and their families in these houses. They are BEAUTIFUL homes and you can usually choose from several that are available.
Here’s the kicker, it’s only available for certain ranks and the rules around this changed 5 times in the 2 years we were there. Therefore, you will need to have your soldier call the home and see if he is eligible. If eligible, use the program. It will be for your benefit.
There are none. There is no ACS, there is no commissioner, … nothing. It is a National Guard post, which only has the basic necessities for the soldiers. So if you need something, you have to find it in the Hattiesburg community (or wherever you end up living).
Services outside of publication
Hattiesburg is the community outside of Camp Shelby. It is a decent size with many restaurants, universities and churches. If you are not from the South (we were not), it will take some getting used to, but the people are friendly and the community supports you.
There are no medical services available at Camp Shelby. You may be thinking this is a hassle, but it’s actually a great thing! You will be Tricare Remote. This means you can see any doctor who takes Tricare (they all do it in Hattiesburg) and all doctors are very familiar with how Tricare works. My baby saw a civil pediatrician, I saw a civil specialist, etc. That’s great!
The two hospitals are Forrest General and Wesley Medical. They are both very good. Soldiers are automatically sent to General Forrest, but the family has a choice. We have no complaints about anything medical in Hattiesburg, MS.
Dentistry is also a great experience. You will have your choice of dentists. There are some for kids only, adults only, family members, etc.
There is no childcare at Camp Shelby. You will have to use child care in Hattiesburg, and there are many. See the Hattiesburg article for more information. Because there is no child care at Camp Shelby, you are eligible to receive benefits to supplement the cost of off-site child care. Be sure to visit the NAACRA website to see if you are eligible. Please note that many child care providers accept these funds, but they are not listed on the website. Ask each provider if they are part of the program.
Camp Shelby can be quite intimidating for families who have always lived on military installations. But making a living from posting in this community can be very rewarding. Remember to be open-minded, ask questions, and try not to get frustrated. Find a spouse who has been there for a while and ask them to help you. If your unit has an FRG, they may be able to help as well.
Keep your head up! This experience will be completely what you make it. So make it cool!