During the Civil War, both the Confederates and Union used the land to stage supplies. MCAS was initially established as a Naval Air Station in 1943. In this capacity, it served as support for anti-submarine patrol squadrons. NAS Beaufort was deactivated in 1946 and Marine Corps Auxiliary Airfield Beaufort was activated in 1956. Its designation was changed to MCAS in 1960.
Approximately 6,900 acres has been allotted to the base. The operational facilities occupy 5,800 of those acres, while Laurel Bay housing occupies the remaining 1,100. Townsend Bombing Range in McIntosh County, Georgia has 5,200 acres also belonging to MCAS Beaufort. The Georgia Air National Guard manages it.
The base is used to train pilots for their role in supporting ongoing operations. One Combat Logistics Company, a Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron (H&HS), a Marine Air Control Squadron (MACS) Detachment, and a Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) call the base home. Two more units are Marine All-Weather (MAW) Fighter Attack Squadrons and another is a Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron (MALS). MCAS Beaufort also claims four Marine Fighter Attack Squadrons (VMFAs), one Marine Wing Support Squadron (MWSS) and one Strike Fighter Attack Squadron.
Beaufort is the nearest town, with a population of 12,361. Hilton Head Island is a resort town 35 miles southwest of Beaufort. Savannah is a fair-sized city about 46 miles (about an hour’s drive) southwest of Beaufort. Another good-sized city within easy driving distance – about one hour – is Charleston. Charleston and Savannah are both full of historic sites to tour and have a pretty decent night life. They also have great restaurant selections.
The base has a state of the art recreation facility catering to both the interactive gamer and spectator. There is also golf, bowling, camping, and other outdoor activities. The base provides theater activities and physical fitness facilities as well.
Baseball fans have the Savannah Sand Gnats and the Atlanta Braves nearby. Footballers can watch the Atlanta Falcons, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Carolina Panthers. The Atlanta Hawks can satisfy that basketball itch.
There are three DoD schools within the Laurel Bay housing community for Pre-K through 8th grade. All other grades attend school within the local educational system. There are two high schools and several private academies – both Christian and secular.
Naval Hospital Beaufort is available to all reporting personnel and their families. Beaufort Memorial Hospital accepts Tricare and the online Yellow Pages has close to 600 listings for physicians that also accept it.
The on-base housing community for MCAS Beaufort is Laurel Bay Community, located approximately three miles from the front gate. Off-base housing is available, but can be a bit pricey for junior personnel. Average rent for the area is around $830. It is affordable if the member shops around before renting or purchasing a home. The temporary lodging facility at MCAS Beaufort is de Treville House located on the base.
The military community is fairly strong. The MCAS Family Team Building website provides information on family readiness and deployment support training, life skills education and important family information.