Aberdeen Proving Ground is an excellent place to be stationed. Take a sigh of relief if this is where your orders are for. Northeast Maryland is a good, safe, convenient place to live.
Was it my favorite of all the places?
No. It was not, but this was our COVID station. We arrived in 2019, just before the pandemic, and we are leaving as restrictions are ending. All our time here was colored by the whole pandemic, four kids in the virtual school experience. It was hard. I’m sure many of you can relate.
We have been an Army family for twenty whole years now, though, so I do have plenty to compare it to. So long as you do not live in the area immediately outside the base gates, APG is a stellar duty station.
Aberdeen Proving Ground has everything you need.
The Basic FAQS:
-This is a small U.S. Army installation.
-The base does have a Commissary, Aafes Exchange, and Shoppette.
-There is also a satellite campus of APG called Edgewood.
-Children living on base are districted for Harford County Public schools. More on that in a minute.
-Tons of people choose to live off post, in Bel Air or Havre de Grace, to take advantage of the more highly rated schools. That’s what we did.
-If you move too far away from post though you might find yourself missing your military community. We missed them!
-A nice happy medium of good schools but still being close to base and other military families might be settling down in the Abingdon, Havre de Grace, or South Bel Air area.
-There is a TON to see and do around APG. More about that later.
Let’s talk about the schools.
For us, the school district is always the deciding factor on where we choose to live because we have school-aged children. When we were younger, and it was not a factor, we did enjoy living on post or anywhere that felt nice.
Living on post is convenient, so first, you want to know a little about where APG kids go to school:
-Roye-Williams Elementary school
The schools serving post are not local favorites. For military kids, Roye-Williams is probably similar to many other schools they have been to. That said, I do not want to say bad things about a school we have not even set foot in. I have known at least two fantastic teachers who worked there, so I can assure you it is not all bad.
Don’t take Great School’s word for it. Ask other military spouses currently stationed there in the Aberdeen Facebook group.
-Aberdeen Middle School
We are so fortunate now that we live in a time where we can go online to a Facebook group and ask other current military spouses about their experiences with the community and the schools. In my younger years, we did not have this advantage.
Housing on post is nice and not too hard to obtain if you are okay with the school district.
We turned down a house in the Edgewood location of post because of the long history of toxic testing on the Edgewood campus. Large areas of Edgewood are considered contaminated and are abandoned. There are whole ghost neighborhoods.
Knowing that, take a drive around to decide what you are comfortable with before you sign for an Edgewood house.
Some of the houses on base do offer a beautiful view of the water.
We knew we would be in the area for at least three years, so we did buy a house in nearby Bel Air. That was our choice to take advantage of the highly rated schools that Bel Air has. There are always pros and cons to that, but the biggest con here was the whole covid pandemic.
Kirk Army Health Clinic will probably be your assigned clinic for the whole family.
Kirk is on APG proper, and according to Tricare, it is the only clinic Tricare Prime insurance holders are allowed to sign up with. That is what Tricare told me when I called to ask about switching to a civilian PCM off post.
The doctors and staff at the clinic are competent, kind, and courteous. Sometimes it is hard to be seen, and sometimes it isn’t. We frequently use the local urgent care when we need a strep test or such.
Here is my only problem with Kirk. Kirk Army Clinic has an odd referral policy.
This is the only military health clinic I have had this exact problem with, but they often write bad referrals.
The clinic has a policy that you cannot pick your referral provider. They want it to be random, so unless you have a doctor that day who helps you out, you almost always have to re-do your referral with Tricare later.
This clinic wrote me referrals to specialists who are retired a couple of times. Another time, they referred my seven-year-old to an ENT doctor who did not see children. Often, they send us way out of town to Baltimore when there are plenty of local doctors who accept Tricare and would have seen us.
This broken referral process caused me a lot of frustration.
For each one, I would have to find the Tricare number, call them, wait through the long call prompters, and then get the Tricare operator to switch us to local, still working physicians.
That is why I switched healthcare plans for myself.
Johns Hopkins has a Prime Tricare plan you can switch to. It is still free, still a Prime plan, so you still have to do the referral dance. However, if you switch, you get a Johns Hopkins Waters Edge PCM, and the referral process happens far more smoothly.
I finish my appointment, then I go out in the hall to see the referral secretaries. They say, “Who would you like to see? Where would you like to go for your specialist?”
Wow. Isn’t that nice?
Granted, I still do not know, but I can make sure they send me somewhere local to someone who has not retired, rather than finding out two weeks later I am being sent an hour away.
That is my recommendation. I did not switch the kids over, but they do not often go to the doctor, so it has not been a huge problem.
Besides, like most military families, we live our life saying, “Well, it’s only for a few more months.”
Isn’t it sad but funny how much we put up with because we know we won’t have to deal with it for long?
Northerners think it’s warm here, and southerners think it is freezing. I will say it is cool or cold eight months out of the year. Snow is mild, but it does happen.
It is extremely humid. If you have a basement, make sure you put a dehumidifier down there, or you will have a serious mold problem.
Fun Things to Do
Like most military families, we are always on the lookout for new places to explore. That is our favorite perk about being such nomads.
In Northeast Maryland, you are right on the Chesapeake Bay. During Covid, all pools were closed, so we went to a state park and rented a pontoon boat. It was wonderful.
Now that the pandemic is over, APG’s pools are open again. They do have awesome pools for families. We used them even though we lived twenty minutes away because the pool is free for active-duty families.
You are an hour or less from Pennsylvania and Delaware. Plus, Washington, D.C. is only one and a half to two hours’ drive down I-95.
Amish country around Lancaster, Pennsylvania is a treasure trove of things to do and see. It is only an hour from Harford County. We drove up there regularly and enjoyed seeing the sights.
There is a Megabus in White Marsh that will take you up to New York City, which is only a few hours away. We have thoroughly enjoyed exploring these surrounding areas.
Make sure you plan some fun day or overnight trips to take advantage of living so close to so many historic and fun places.
Beautiful countryside near Lancaster
Overall, an APG assignment is a win.
All of life has returned to normal now. Social events, kids’ sports, and regular school are all back. Like most places, life is starting to feel less pandemic-level-stressful.
You have everything you need here in the Aberdeen area, and there are so many places to explore nearby. I hope you thoroughly enjoy your time at Aberdeen Proving Ground.
Feel free to ask me any questions you have in the comments here. I would also love to have you visit me where I blog at www.gettingmyacttogether.com.