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As a former military spouse, I’ve visited and even lived on multiple military installations. But going on a military base on a tour was a new experience even for me. This article reviews my tour of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base and provides tips on preparing yourself if you’d like to tour a military base near you.
Seymour Johnson AFB, located in Goldsboro, North Carolina, is one of the largest bases in North Carolina and the only Air Force base named after a Navy pilot. Like most military bases, individuals can tour the base on their own, but it won’t be the same experience as a guided tour. Military bases are a small compressed community just like a city. Most bases have various workplaces, day care centers, schools, hospitals, housing, bowling alleys, grocery stores, movie theaters, and even their own fire department. Civilian group tours at Seymour Johnson are offered on the last Thursday of every month.
The meet up location was the parking lot of the Planet Fitness in Goldsboro. The tour departs at 9:00 am, so don’t be late! A member of the Visit Goldsboro office provided us with a list of the ten recommended places to eat lunch, as well as area maps and city brochures.
WHAT WE SAW
- Windshield Tour
After driving through the security gates at the base, we took a quick driving tour of the base and learned some of its
- Training Hangar
Our first stop was at the training hangar for the 29th Company. We were able to see an F-15 jet up close! Recent graduates of the mechanical technical schools were practicing their skills on an F-15. While I really appreciated being able to finally ask some questions about jets, my lack of basic knowledge was apparent. I enjoyed eavesdropping on questions being asked by those who had served and been in some jets in the past.
And then the hangar doors opened. And we were next to the tarmac. We saw some cargo planes take off but my favorite part was seeing fighter jets take off. The amount of power you could feel just standing there was amazing! I could have stood there all day!
- Air Traffic Control Tower
Yes! We were able to actually enter the air traffic control tower and step onto the floor! Air traffic controllers explained their communications with other control zones. Unfortunately for us, we did not have an opportunity to see a flight take off or land while we were in the tower — but they have the best view on the entire base!
Rising ten floors, visitors can either take the stairs or the elevator. We enjoyed walking on the outside platform (though I’m afraid of heights so I took the photo of our bus without looking down!).
- Fire Department
Like most fire departments, the fire department at Seymour Johnson AFB responds to emergencies in housing and work places. The difference is that this fire department also responds to airplane emergencies and hazmat calls. During our visit, a pilot declared a landing emergency when a sensor showed a potential issue with the hydraulics in the landing gear. Since we were in the training auditorium at the time the call came in, we were able to hear the emergency call from the air traffic control tower relaying the emergency. The hospital and fire department acknowledged and prepared themselves for the landing. We did not get to see the emergency landing but heard that pilot and plane made a safe landing.
With a staff of almost 70 people, only a handful are civilian, the rest of the force is comprised of active duty members. Working in shifts of 48 hours at a time, the firehouse has to become like a second home. Firemen have access to individual bunks, a theater-like room, a games room (with even a pool table!), a kitchen that would make many chefs jealous, and fully-equipped gym.
One of the two original fire trucks at the base has been refurbished and is on display. It gets to ride in parades and it is pretty amazing that a 1942 or so truck has been restored to its glory.
- Heritage Park
See the transition of planes through the years. Several display planes include plaques recognizing special groups in the history of the Air Force and the base in particular. A park plaza also features a water fountain with four jet planes. Located at a busy intersection, this is an area that will put the visit into historical context.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO:
- Sign up for the tours in advance. Once they’re full, they’re full!
- The tour lasts approximately 3-3.5 hours.
- Visitors should be able to climb in and out of an activity bus.
- Don’t bring extra stuff with you. You’ll be able to leave items on the bus but if possible, leave unnecessary items in your car.
- Carry valid ID with you.
- Every April the base hosts Wings Over Wayne – an air show.
- Find out more details here: http://www.visitgoldsboronc.com/tours
I’ve never attended an air show before, but after this tour, I’m really looking forward to experiencing Wings Over Wayne, April 28-29, 2019. Admission and parking are FREE! Find more information here: https://www.wingsoverwayneairshow.com
Have you visited a military base through a tour before? I’ll be posting Weekend Getaway tours for the history buff, a BBQ trail, and downtown Goldsboro in the upcoming months.
Annick, The Common Traveler