Permanent Change of Station. PCS. It’s exciting. It’s terrifying. It’s both.
You and, if you have them, your family members will be calling the Black Hills home for the next few years.
So what’s the home of the 28th Bomb Wing like? What is there to do? What do you need to know?
An anonymous Reddit user who described herself as a “single female in the Med group” recently went to the platform for advice. She wrote, “PCSing to Ellsworth Air Force Base this August. Tell me everything I should know! Good and bad, etc.” Asking questions about the unknown is a great idea.
It can definitely take the edge off a scary situation. Here’s what the good folks at Reddit had to say in response to her question.
Reddit user insmek started things off on a positive note: “Ellsworth is the best first base. I’d like to retire there, if I get the chance.”
A lot of people do. Once you’ve experienced the Black Hills, it’s hard to go back.
Zimmy1909 echoed this: “soooo many retirees live here and I can see why!”
Darmstadter was champing at the bit to move back to the Black Hills: “I was there 5 years and loved it. I’d go back tomorrow if it was available.”
The Black Hills are a community that has something for everyone. Outdoorsy people love it here because of the world-class hiking and camping. And even if you’re not a nature-lover now, it’s easy to become one in the Black Hills. Check out our post on gaining outdoor skills if you’re looking to enjoy the Hills in a richer way.
AlternativeSalsa (great name, by the way) offered this advice: “Learn to love the outdoors. There are so many awesome places to see in the Black Hills. Do the regular tourist stuff, then go see the abandoned quartz mine/mill in Hill City, Rockerville flume, and devil’s bathtub.”
What can we say about the weather here? There’s an old adage that you might hear while you’re here: If you don’t like the weather, wait 20 minutes.
Redeitor tallmanscoob offered this colorful description: “I will warn you, the weather out here is crazy. Imagine a toddler on your house thermostat, the weather changes frequently. Watch out for the winds too, 60-70 mph sustained winds is normal. The winds WILL rip the door out of your hands, or send your kid’s trampoline into Oklahoma.”
That might be a slight exaggeration. The winds can be strong at times. 60-70 miles per hour winds do happen, but they aren’t common. Just stake that trampoline down well, and you should be good.
Pawnman99 went on with this fun fact about the weather: “I think South Dakota holds the record for most rapid temperature swing. -4 to +45 in about two minutes at Spearfish. Eventually got to 54 degrees… then half an hour later, down to -4.”
See? If you don’t like the weather, just wait a few minutes.
Don’t let those extreme stories scare you too much. AlternativeSalsa shared that: “I was raising my son as a single dad when I was there … I 100% loved every minute there. The windy but not snowy winters (except October 2013), short but beautiful summers, and the out of nowhere hail storms. It’s all good, and I would go back there in a heart beat if it was conducive to my current life.”
Darmstadter also wasn’t fazed by the weather: “I loved living there and I’d go back tomorrow if they offered it. Winters are long but by November you’re just used to the cold. Summer gets pretty hot.”
If the hail has you worried, don’t sweat it. Our friends at Weather-Tite Exteriors can fix anything the hail does to your house. And they offer a military discount.
What To Do
Awksomepenguin highlighted his favorite feature of the nearby City of Presidents: “Rapid City has a great craft beer scene. Really enjoyed my TDY there a few years ago.”
If you like concerts and shows, Pawnman99 has got you: “Downtown has been built up over the years. In summer, on Thursdays, they do “Summer Nights” and bring in live bands, all the stores put some of their stuff out on the sidewalks, and there’s food trucks and beer vendors. You can just wander downtown with a beer in hand, listen to the music, and hang out with your friends.”
Pawnman went on: “Rapid City is a kind of midway point between Denver and Minneapolis, so they attract a lot of bands, concerts, and shows that a similar size town located elsewhere wouldn’t get. Seen the Blue Man Group and The Offspring in Rapid City, and Sturgis is right down the road, where the motorcycle rally often attracts musicians like Aerosmith, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Cage the Elephant, Scorpions…too many to list them all.”
The newly expanded Monument is announcing new concerts and shows all the time. And Pawnman is right, Rapid is booking concerts that are top tier in the region.
The Monument is also home to the Rapid City Rush. The Rush are a professional AA ice hockey team. Cheering on the Rush is a great way to spend an evening in Rapid.
Tallmanscoob wrapped up the comments on things to do: “Currently stationed here, leaving in a few weeks. All the other posts are dead on correct. If you are into motorcycles, it’s some of the best riding in the country. Even driving through the Black Hills is amazing. Tons of hiking trails, ski resorts, hunting and fishing. Explore it all, trust me.”
Final Thoughts on PCSing to Ellsworth AFB
Any form of moving can be stressful, tiring and draining. But PCS adds another dimension of pressure. Remember to reach out, get connected and take care of yourself. You may look back at the chapter of your life spent at Ellsworth and the Black Hills and smile every time you think back on it.
Who knows? You may even come back some day to raise a family or retire. Those 70 mile per hour winds aren’t that bad.