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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Goodbye to Edwards AFB

Once upon a time, when Matt was beginning his senior year at the Air Force Academy, he had just received his AFSC (job assignment) and it was time to submit his dream sheet for bases. I was visiting for the weekend and sat with him in his dorm room to fill out the list together. After all, it was a decision that would affect both of our lives rather drastically. We already knew what our top choices would be -- Hanscom (Boston), Los Angeles, and Vandenberg (California). Now it was just time to fill in the blanks next to numbers 4-8. As Matt scrolled down the potential list, a familiar name jumped out at me. "Matt, if you go to Edwards," I said, only half joking, "I'm not coming."

Growing up in Northern California, I'd passed by Edwards Air Force Base a few times on our way to visit my grandparents in Southern Utah. It was situated between Bakersfield and Barstow in the middle of the desert and every time we drove by, I thought, "Oh, those poor people who live there." Of course, 100's night came and Matt received his base assignment and we found out that we would be moving to Edwards. (Oh, the irony!) Immediately afterward, we went to the Hendricks' and walked into a kitchen full of Colonels who sang Edwards' praises. Talk about a blessing. They said it was the coolest place for an engineer and talked about how wonderful it would be for Matt to start his career there. So I switched gears and started making a list of all the wonderful things within just a couple hours of our new base. Suddenly, we were actually excited for our lives in the middle of nowhere.

Now, three years after we arrived on base, I can't even begin to tell you how lucky we feel that we were one of those "poor people" who lived at Edwards Air Force Base. Sure, living in the desert hurt my career and was sometimes inconvenient and cost us a lot in gas. But the positives far, far outweighed the negatives and we absolutely loved our time at Edwards. It was the best three years!

Here are a few things we'll miss the most:

The Simple Life
Sometimes it was inconvenient living so far away from "conveniences." (You know, like when I was in labor in the middle of the night and wanted toast, but we were out of bread and Matt had to drive 45-minutes roundtrip to get it.) Sometimes it was a bummer when we had to devote an entire Saturday to Sam's Club and simple errands. But actually, it was kind of nice to not be so inundated with the busyness of the civilized world. There was no rushing around on a weekday to run this little errand or that. Quick Walmart runs late at night were a foreign concept. Instead, if we needed something quick, I put Jake in the stroller and we walked a few blocks to the BX or commissary. And if those were closed, we did the good old fashioned thing and knocked on our neighbor's door to borrow an egg. Our weekday life was beautifully simple.

The Proximity to Awesomeness
As simple as our weekdays were, our weekends were a party! We may have lived in the middle of nowhere, but we could get to the tip of LA in an hour and fifteen minutes. Within one-to-two hours, we had beaches, mountains, Disneyland, shopping, museums, and entertainment to our heart's content. Oh, we're going to miss it all!

The Patriotism
Edwards comes to a full and complete stop three times a day: for reveille at 7:30 a.m., for retreat at 4:30 p.m., and again for taps at 9:00 p.m. On a superficial note, the time reminders were excellent. Reveille was awesome because it worked as a fail-safe alarm just in case the night before was a little too late. Retreat was a signal that Daddy would be home soon and we should probably start on dinner. And that 9 o'clock taps reminded us that bedtime was near.

On a deeper note, the patriotism is beautiful. Hearing the national anthem every afternoon never gets old. And though I'd be lying if I didn't admit to sometimes breathing a sigh of relief if I made it inside by 4:29 on a hot day, I love that the entire base stops to pay tribute to our anthem and our country. When I was working as a sports reporter and would cover an event on base, I loved that the ball dropped and the game paused whenever 4:30 hit. Both teams and stands, just like everyone else outside at Edwards, stopped what they were doing and turned to face the music with their hands over their hearts. A brief reminder of our great country, and then the music ends and everyone resumes doing whatever it is that America gives them the freedom to do. Four-thirty is a wonderful time of day.

The Mary Poppins Effect
You know in Mary Poppins, how the neighbors blast off the cannons and everyone has to man their stations to keep things in the house from falling over? Well. As the Air Force Flight Test Center, Edwards has more cool flight tests going on than any other base. This translates into a ton of sonic booms -- up to ten a day. And they are close to home, which means that sometimes, they rock the home. And often, that leaves a mark in the form of crooked picture frames on the wall. I laughed a little every time I'd straighten the frames, since I knew it was only a matter of hours before they were crooked again. It was a little quirk that we came to love.

The Quirks
Speaking of those little quirks... Edwards is full of them. Seeing a coyote as you drive through the gate or walk home at night (or, um, round the corner on the running track) isn't uncommon. You hardly bat an eye when the "big voice" (base-wide loudspeaker) announces a code black, meaning it's too hot for working outside. And -- my favorite -- you develop a ridiculous eye for excellently-raked dirt. On more than one occasion, we lusted over a neighbor's perfectly combed sand or took pride in our own crisp xeriscaping. It's quite the experience having one giant Japanese rock garden for a front yard!

The Desert Sky
Edwards has the most beautiful, unique, interesting sky. I so regret not whipping out my camera for its most breathtaking sunsets.

The Lunches
With the exception of the occasional flight or work event, Matt was able to come home for lunch every single day for three years. It seems like such a little thing, but it made a world of difference. I just kinda like him and loved having that extra hour with him in the middle of every day.

The Work
Those Colonels in the Hendricks' kitchen were right-- Edwards was the absolute best place for Matt to start his engineering career. He had the most amazing opportunities and rocked all of them. Matt started by working at NASA Dryden on a super-cool project for the F-16. He then transitioned that over to the Air Force side and was then picked up to work special projects for the base commander. At Matt's farewell, Edwards' base commander and chief of staff both had so many wonderful things to say about Matt and all that he's accomplished in his first three years. I was definitely a proud wife as General Bunch complimented Matt and presented him with a commendation medal.

The People
What really makes a place is the people. Matt's job was made that much more enjoyable by having amazing leaders and coworkers. Our neighborhood was that much more fun because of the block parties we threw every month. We love that our church is welcoming no matter where you go. And what would we ever do without such great friends? Our friends are what made Edwards so wonderful. We miss you all!


  1. My husband's new schedule allows him to come home for lunch every day and I love it! Just a few minutes to sit down together in the middle of a busy day is something we both look forward to.

  2. I love how you were able to find so many wonderful things in a place you determined was terrible. Your optimism is fabulous in today's negativity!

  3. I had no idea it was in the middle of nowhere, everywhere you go always seems magical.

    Girl, now you'll be in Utah. You can uh.. go to Ogden. :) Just kidding southern utah is beautiful.. northern.. well you'll have to introduce me to it, even if i did grow up there.

  4. I love this post (and your blog)! We're also Air Force, and we hear people complain all the time about how much they loathe their current base. I just want to tell them that it is what they make of it.

    Our first base was horrible; we still call it the Pit of Hell (sorry for that language). There was nothing redeeming about it. But you know what? Every single base we've been to since (3 of them) have been amazing because we made the best of them. We appreciate "good" bases so much more.

  5. I just stumbled across your blog tonight on pinterest from a photo of how you announced your first pregnancy. I then noticed in the labels "Air Force" and since your blog is titled with "SoCal" I thought you might be at Edwards. I'm a new Air Force wife and just recently moved to Edwards. I am beginning to love some of the things you mentioned like the simple life, the way the whole base stops when the Nation's songs play (even when you're driving and you stop in the middle of the road), how close we are to everything that everybody talks about traveling to, and the sonic booms that make me scream and my heart race! I was told that I would hate it out here and sometimes I believe them. I can't thank you enough for this post. It helped me to realize that this base can be loved and that it will be missed when it's in our past. You don't know me and I don't know you, but this post was an answer to my prayers and I am so grateful for it! Thank you!


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