What Should I Know About Kwajalein Atoll?
Kwajalein Atoll, known informally as Kwaj by its largely short-term residents, is part of the Marshall islands chain located in the western Pacific ocean. Kwajalein Atoll is approximately 2,100 miles southwest of Hawaii and 1,400 miles east of Guam. In other words, Kwajalein Atoll is one of the most isolated locations on the planet, although not completely cut off from modern amenities such as schools, stores, restaurants and Internet services.
Virtually all of Kwajalein is under the control or auspices of the United States Army Command, so it is essentially a military base with some accommodations for civilian workers. The primary work performed on Kwajalein Atoll is missile system testing for various government agencies, primarily the military. Most American residents of Kwajalein Atoll are on assignment for private defense contractors or official government agencies. In fact, it is nearly impossible for a private citizen to visit Kwajalein Island without official government clearance.
Life on Kwajalein Atoll is generally said to be similar to living in a small American town, not a large city. Organized sports such as snorkeling, volleyball, basketball and softball are offered. There are fitness centers and other recreational facilities for skating, running and tennis. Although swimming in the ocean is discouraged, there are a number of places where boating and windsurfing are permitted.
The weather on Kwajalein Atoll is typical for tropical islands located near the equator. There is a fairly constant trade wind, and sudden rainfall is always a possibility. The average temperature remains in the upper 80s Fahrenheit (lower 30s Celsius) year round, and can become uncomfortably hot if the winds shift or die down. Although not common, hurricanes have been known to strike Kwajalein Atoll periodically and cause significant damage.
Although the military commanders who oversee the base have made efforts to improve the living conditions of assigned residents, there are still some difficulties obtaining modern amenities such as Internet service, advanced mail deliveries, and satellite television channels. Dial-up Internet access is available, but it can be very expensive to use. The military does provide some television services through its own network, but residents cannot obtain in-home satellite television as of this writing.
There are some general merchandise stores on Kwajalein Atoll, but they generally work like Army post exchanges, with limited selection and higher retail prices. Residents can visit a neighboring island called Ebeye to purchase necessary hardware items or attend church. Telephone service does exist, and residents actually have an American area code (805), but the local Marshall Islands phone company can add a surcharge per minute of use.
While the living arrangements on Kwajalein Atoll may be somewhat spartan, many contractors assigned to work there believe it is truly a paradise on Earth. The crime rate is relatively low, the working conditions are usually pleasant, and single residents with no dependents are free to adapt a more leisurely island lifestyle when not on duty.
I worked and live on Kwaj in 2010, and loved it, but it was low paying. After a little over a year, I went to Qatar for twice the pay. To my surprise, I was just offered a job back on Kwaj at a decent pay scale. I was all set to go until the recruiter told me they were doubling up in the bachelor quarters. That was a deal breaker.
It is encouraged that we play, fish, swim, surf, boat, kayak, windsurf etc., but we just need to be aware of the conditions when doing so. And there is no Country Club here. Gyms, bars, and tennis/volleyball courts, skate park, track, baseball and soccer fields yes. No country club. And a bar can be considered an activity on Kwaj. Life on the island is much like living at club med, without having to pay the fees.
Internet is gaining speed, its only 32 bucks a month for the people living here to have a phone connection, dial up internet is free.
Kwaj is beautiful.
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