First term Airman Basic Lesley Beard was justifiably apprehensive about being stationed in a recovering disaster area.
"Yeah, I thought of that," says the St. Louis, Missouri native. "I wondered whether or not the houses were going to be nice, whether or not they were going to have water damage. And too, just the area, I wondered whether or not there was going to be a lot to do. Everything is supposed to be gone."
So imagine her relief when she and her husband discovered a practically new house in Sandhill Landing would be their home.
"It comes with a refrigerator, which is brand new, a nice stove and a dishwasher," says Beard.
They are part of a wave of Keesler families moving to Sandhill Landing, a development built to house Navy personnel.
"Knowing that the Naval Pascagoula Station is closing, they have 160 housing units out there, so we saw this as an opportunity to take those houses from the Navy to supplement our housing requirements here at Keesler," says 81st Mission Support Group Commander Col. Rodney Croslen.
Croslen says the 160 homes at Sandhill Landing will help alleviate the base's severe housing crunch.
"After Hurricane Katrina, we only had about 35 percent of our houses that were still habitable," says Croslen. "The current plan is to build about 1,028 new homes."
But the first of those won't be ready until next spring. Until then, Croslen says, the base will continue to use Sandhill Landing jointly with other service branches.
"The Navy personnel living in the area will still be allowed to stay at Sandhill," says Croslen.
Airman Beard says she's just happy to be one of the first to call them 'neighbor.'
"I was wondering whether I was going to live on base or off base," says Beard. "When we saw this, we were excited.