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Wright-Patt ties for No. 1 base in U.S.

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base has tied as the top Air Force base to be stationed among 68 stateside locations, according to the Air Force Times.

“It’s a great opportunity to tell something that we already know,” said Jeff Hoagland, Dayton Development Coalition president and chief executive officer. “I think this could be very helpful to attract new missions and new jobs.”

The weekly newspaper and website looked at a dozen categories and evaluated each using a point system. The survey highlighted the top five and the lowest five base rankings.

The categories reviewed school quality, cost of living, housing costs, size of the community, base exchange, on-base medical care facilities, crime rates, commute times, pollution levels, climate, unemployment rates and sales taxes.

Wright-Patterson tied with Scott Air Force Base, Ill., for the top spot.

“The spirit between the base and community here is incredibly strong,” said Col. John M. Devillier, newly appointed 88th Air Base Wing commander at Wright-Patterson, in an email. “People in the Miami Valley show their appreciation for the Air Force and help create the kind of community that is responsive to the needs of our people.”

The Air Force Times cited low housing costs, a large base commissary and exchange and a large medical center. The survey found the Dayton region had an above average crime score of seven out of 10, but a below average one-way commute time of 14 minutes compared to 25 minutes nationwide, among other factors.

The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force and the Air Force Marathon were cited as top amenities, too, the report said.

Matthew and Caroline Hawkins, both 30, are a married couple serving as Air Force captains at Wright-Patterson.

“Really, I don’t think there’s any surprise in our mind and (the survey results) probably goes along with our peers as well,” said Matthew Hawkins, an engineer in the AC-130J program at the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center. “We love Dayton.”

The Fairborn couple said the partnership the community has with the base airmen and employees, affordable housing, a low crime rate, plus base intramural sport leagues, metro and state parks, bike trails, sailing, and area restaurants are reasons why they like living here.

“In addition to that, the commute to Wright-Patt is really easy,” said Caroline Hawkins, who works in acquisition at the Air Force Materiel Command. “Getting on and off the base is very easy.”

Their home is within driving distance to her family on the East Coast “so that’s a big plus,” she said, adding people off-base frequently thank her for her service while she is in uniform.

The size of Wright-Patterson, the largest single site employer in Ohio, gives flexibility to move from job to job, she added. “There are great job opportunities for engineers here at Wright-Patterson,” Caroline Hawkins said. “Matt and I are both engineers and we’re both now on our third job here at Wright-Patt. It’s a great opportunity to be able to stay settled in one place and move from job to job and gain a lot of valuable experience.”

The on-base and off-base attractions are a draw to both military families and retirees who choose to stay or relocate to the Miami Valley, said Deborah Gross, Dayton Area Defense Contractors Association executive director.

A minor league baseball team, a performing arts center and art museums attract airmen to Dayton, while graduate level academic degrees help base employees learn skills and earn credentials that fit their jobs, Gross said.

“That’s why I think so many of them, as they go through their career and they retire, come back to settle at Wright-Patterson for the long haul,” she said.

The other top bases in order of ranking were: Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Tex.; Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska; and Luke Air Force Base, Ariz.

The five lowest scored bases in the Air Force Times review were: Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif., which scored the lowest of all 68 bases, mostly because of cost of living and housing costs; followed by a tie between Columbus Air Force Base, Miss., and McConnell Air Force Base, Kan.; and a tie for fifth from the bottom between Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., and Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, D.C.

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