MacDill Air Force Base, the only military installation in the world home to two U.S. combatant commands, may be loved in the Tampa area, but it was tied for sixth best in the Air Force Times’ ranking of 68 Air Force bases.
MacDill, home to U.S. Central Command, U.S. Special Operations Command, the 6th Air Mobility Wing, the 927th Air Refueling Wing, the Joint Communications Support Element and other mission partners, was tied with Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota.
Scott Air Force Base in Illinois and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio were tied for the top spot in the Air Force Times’ rankings.
Los Angeles Air Force Base was rated the worst.
To determine its rankings, the Air Force Times wrote that it used resources like GreatSchools.com, Zillow, Realtor.com, and Sperling’s Best Places to evaluate statistics in a dozen categories: school quality, cost of living, housing costs, commissary size, base exchange size, size of on-base health care facilities, crime rates, commute times, pollution levels, climate, unemployment rates and sales taxes. It then assigned each category a score on a 10-point scale.
“Of course, not all categories are equally important to service members,” according to the Air Force Times. “We’d wager school quality, for example, is a greater concern than the sales tax rate. So we weighted each category. Scores for the most important categories — schools, cost of living, housing and commissaries — were tripled. The next most important categories — crime, health care facilities, commute times and exchanges — were doubled in value.”
The last four categories — pollution levels, climate, unemployment rates and sales taxes — got no additional weighting, according to Air Force Times.
Reaction by those familiar with MacDill has ranged from surprise that it wasn’t ranked higher to gratitude that others realize its value.
“I would’ve thought MacDill would make it higher up the list,” said Adrianna Domingos-Lupher, a MacDill-based military blogger and entrepreneur whose husband works at the base. “This is one of my favorite assignments over the course of my life as a brat and now a spouse.”
The man who was given the call sign “Swagger” said the rankings are further proof of the Tampa area’s close relations with the base.
“This reinforces what we try to do every day,” said Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. “We honor the service of the men and women who wear the uniform of our country and their families by providing a quality of life in Tampa that is commensurate with their sacrifices.”
Rich McClain, executive director of the Tampa Bay Defense Alliance, said, “It’s not surprising to me that MacDill would rank at or near the top of ‘favorite duty stations’ by those within the military. From the services provided to our military members, to the excellent facilities, to the convenience, to the many smiling faces that support our members, MacDill’s a fantastic place to work and play.”
McClain also credited the Tampa area for MacDill’s positive vibes.
“Of course, the heart of any base and its success is the surrounding local community and the support a community provides to not only the active military member, but the families and those that choose to retire and make the community a permanent home,” he said. “Tampa and the Tampa Bay area is second to none in its support to our military members and the support they provide to MacDill.”
The rankings, however, were a surprise to the editors of Air Force Times.
Bases such as Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii and Eglin Air Force Base in the Florida Panhandle are popular because of their warm climates and beautiful beaches, but when it came time to consider what it’s like to live, work and raise a family in the Air Force, they did not rise to the very top, the publication said.
Instead, bases with large supplies of affordable housing, lower costs of living, top commissaries and exchanges and expansive medical facilities came out on top: Scott, Wright-Patterson, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska, and Luke Air Force Base in Arizona.
Officials from the 6th Air Mobility Wing, MacDill’s host unit, could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday morning.