Pros and Cons of Living on a Military Base
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Three days ago was the anniversary of my family coming to live at Robins Air Force Base. This is our first duty station and we have been here four years. It’s really hard to believe sometimes!
When we first moved here, we were newly married with no kids and settled into an apartment about 5-10 minutes from the base. For an apartment, it was pretty nice (at least I thought so).
We had a two-bedroom, with a small dining room and kitchen. We lived there for one year before we decided to move on base due to me being pregnant with my son and needing more room.
It’s been three years since we moved onto the base and I can definitely say with certainty that (for us anyways) living on a military base is better. We love base living and it has really worked for us.
A lot of people ask us which is better: living on a military base or off? So here is my list of pros and cons for both situations. Hopefully, these can help you choose wisely based on your situation. Good luck!
Living on a Military Base: The Pros
1. Living Close to the Commissary and BX.
We love that we live so close to our Commissary and Base Exchange. We also have a bank and gas station and all four of those things are within walking distance of our house.
How much more convenient can you get? The Commissary is one of the cheapest places to shop since it is tax-free so it’s nice to have it close by. If we ever run out of any food or need something last minute we can just run around the corner to get it.
I love the safety I feel from living on a military base. The security of knowing your neighbors are looking out for you when your husband is deployed, or that you can take your kids for a walk around the base and not have to worry about any danger is completely worth it. I feel very safe here and I love that feeling!
3. Saving on Gas.
I love that my husband doesn’t have a long drive to work. It saves on gas and sometimes he can even walk or ride his bike to work! Some military families save money by only having one car. They drive their military member to work every morning so they can have the car all day. I also love that because we live so close to where he works he can come home to have lunch with us sometimes.
4. A Feeling of Military Community.
On a military base, everyone is a military family. Everyone there knows what it’s like to go through a deployment and they understand what military life is like. We all look out for each other and have each other’s backs. Yes, sometimes there is drama, but I think there is drama anywhere you go.
5. Free Utilities.
When living on a military base, you usually don’t have to pay for utilities which is a very nice bonus! Some bases have privatized housing which does charge up to a certain point, but our family never had to pay. In fact, we get a check back every month. It’s so nice to be able to run the heat and air conditioner and not have to worry about the bill getting too high.
See also: 8 Reasons Why I Love Living on a Military Base
6. Free Maintenance.
I will be honest, there have been many times I have been frustrated with the maintenance people on base, but for the most part, they are very helpful and can really help you in a pinch! It’s nice that if something is broken I just have to make a call and they can come and fix it that day or that week.
During my husband’s deployment, the maintenance crew even came over to help me replace light bulbs that were too high for me to reach. They even unplugged my toilet!
7. Base Programs.
There are a lot of military bases that have programs for children, or programs during deployment. Some even have classes that you can attend for free. Our base has a gym all military families can use for free.
We also have classes at the Airman and Family Readiness Center that are free. Some of these classes include tips and training for deployment, special needs parenting, writing resumes, and more. Also, there is a youth center that has sports programs available. It’s nice to live near and have access to all that!
Cons of Living on a Military Base
1. Getting Family and Friends on Base.
We have a lot of church friends and one of the hardest things about living on a military base is not being able to have our church friends and other civilian friends over because of the inconvenience of trying to get them to our house on the base.
It can be a big process to get civilian family and friends on due to security and sometimes I feel it’s not even worth it to try. Of course, we have had civilian friends over to our house and even now I have to pick up my son’s therapist at the main gate so they can be approved to come to our us. It can be quite a pain!
2. School Districts.
If your base doesn’t have a school (ours closed down) and you don’t like the school that your base is zoned for, that can be a problem.
Here, a lot of military families chose to move off base once their child became school age because they did not want them going to the school our base is zoned for. This is a definite con and something to think about if you have school-aged children.
3. No Separation of Work and Home Life.
Some military families don’t like to live on base because they want to separate their work and their home life and it’s hard to do that living on a military base. Personally, I don’t agree.
We have never had to worry about that. When my husband comes home, he is home. Even though we haven’t let this affect us, many others have said it’s a big part of their decision to live on or off base.
4. Gas Money.
As I mentioned in the “pros” list, living on a military base can save you a lot of money on gas. But living off base can definitely cost a lot depending on how far you are traveling to get to work or the commissary. I know some people who travel 30 minutes or more one way to get to the base. I’m sure all that gas money adds up quickly!
Some military bases do not have very nice houses. The homes can be very old and run down on and in those cases, it’s definitely not worth the hassle of living on the base. Here at Robins Air Force Base we have very nice housing and are very happy with the house we are in, however, I have heard my share of base housing horror stories so make sure to check into the housing at your base before deciding where you will live.
6. The Rules.
Bases can and do have strict rules about the housing, yards, and even pets. At our base, you have to ask to take down or put up a fence. If you have a fence you have to keep the lawn very neat, clean, and mowed. There are pet rules here as well, although I am not sure what they are since we don’t have any pets.
There are also rules about painting and decorating the walls inside the house too. Those rules can be annoying, but we have found plenty of ways around a lot of them and they have not inconvenienced us too much.
Deciding to live on a military base can be a big decision. Make sure to learn about all the pros and cons at the base you’re moving to before you choose!
What about YOU? Do you live on a military base or off? What are your pros and cons?
Well I would have to say that one of your pros for living on base (base programs) really doesn’t matter because most if not all of those programs are still available whether you live on base or not! If you have a military ID you can use the on post facilities like the gym, library, ACS classes, support groups, playgroups, pools, aquatics center, bowling alley, and child development center. I live off-base (off-post is what we call it in the army) and have used almost all of those programs and facilities. I’m often on post as much as 3-5 times a week utilizing these programs and facilities! Sure I have to pay extra gas to get there!
I just wanted to make sure that people know that living off-post doesn’t exclude you from on-post activities, except for attending the on-post schools and any social gatherings planned directly by the housing offices.
This is a great list of both pros and cons!
I loved living on base a few years ago when we lived in Maryland. It was wonderful to have neighbors who became my best friends, a community that is all walking the same road, and on that base we had a community center with a nice gym for each of the neighborhoods. I miss it!
When we moved to VA we were unable to live on base because of the wait list but we discovered living off base works as well. Around here a lot of the base living is actually right off the base, not protected and it’s not really in a safe area. But the base living your talking about is what I think is wonderful too!
We lived on post at our last 2 duty stations. We decided to buy a home at our new place and will never go back to living on post. I actually feel safer living on post. Our mortgage is well under our BAH so we make a little money even after utilities.
Meant to say I fee safer living off post. 🙂
May I ask why you feel safer living off base? Was there problems at your old bases?
We chose to live off-base at our first duty station (kings bay, ga) because we heard horrific things about the state of their housing. Roach infestations that won’t go away, decrepit homes, etc. We found a nice 3 bed 2 bath out in town that’s roughly 15 minutes from base.
If we ever go to another duty station, maybe we’ll give on-base living a shot if the homes are nice. Maybe. I quite like not having rugrats running around and screaming. I’m not a kid-friendly person most of the time…lol.
Yeah I have heard horror stories about base housing and I am so glad ours it not like that. It was seriously spotless when we moved in here. Sure there are a few things here and there that we don’t like but nothing that bad as what you described. Glad you were able to find a nice house off base though! 🙂
Haha your comment cracked me up! There are SOOOO many kids here and they are always running around screaming, leaving trash in the yard, and ringing the doorbell. I love kids and I even have a two year old, but seriously parents need to keep better track of their children.
I think I may be one of the only non-military wives that follow your site but I love hearing about your family adventures. And I had no idea base living could have so many pros. Very cool!
No, your not the only one I promise! I know of more than several who aren’t military wives! 🙂 Glad you enjoy reading about our life. Military really is quite an adventure! Have a wonderful day!
Oh good because I love reading about your life as a military wife :).
We are actually closer to my husbands work location living off post! Where he works on base, the housing isnt anywhere near! But we live in a development that is right near a small gate that takes him right to his company building. Only about a 10 minute drive. So on post housing isn’t always necessarily closer and better on gas. Also, here in TX our gas prices are lower OFF post than on post. It is $3.01 on post, and only $2.95 at the gas station down the street.
And I like that our neighbors aren’t all military. In our life, the military is my husbands job – not our life. He goes to work in the military world, and then comes home and we live in a normal civilian world!
We do have to pay utilities, but our rent and utilities are all under our housing amount, so we aren’t really “paying” utilities.
Most military bases actually have higher crime rights on the post than the surrounding city :-/ and the crime rate within that city is normally by military members, unfortunately.
We did want to move on post when we first got here though, cause the housing here is BEAUTIFUL!!!! It is seriously amazing. But wait list was 18 months, so we scrapped that and just found a place that was close to his company building. The closest housing on post was 30 minutes from where he actually worked on post.
Wow sounds nice!! What base are you at?? That stinks about the wait list. We had a wait list here, but it wasn’t that long only a few months I believe. Glad you found a house that worked for you! 🙂
We’ve lived off base at both of our duty stations: Mtn. Home AFB in Idaho and Ft. Meade in Maryland. I like living off base because I can find a home that’s more unique and geared to my personal tastes– plus there are less rules about pets and decorating, lawn care, etc., when you either buy or are renting. If you are smart with your money and do a lot of research, you can usually find a great home that’s priced below your BAH so you can put a little extra into savings each month.
On the downside, it’s a pain trying to get to the BX/PX when you live off post. It’s also a little scary living off base when my husband deploys, because I don’t feel as secure as I would if I lived in a military neighborhood on post. I’ve also noticed that it’s harder to make friends, and get people to come off base for a party or dinner. Most of my on-base friends live in a bubble that doesn’t include traveling off post if they can help it.
If the housing at our next station is nice and available, I will consider living on base. I really want to experience both sides while we are in the military!
We just moved to Fort Bliss a year ago. We chose to live off base and so glad we did. We heard from friends about brake in’s from fellow army soldier’s. Their was a case of lead on the news and all they did was kick out the people who lived there with no help and denied the whole thing. Almost all the women on base have been rude to me and I’m so glad to leave and go home away from the drama.
That’s terrible! I am so sorry it was such a bad experience for you. Thankfully we have never run into that with this being an AF base. No base is alike so hopefully there are better ones out there, like the one we re currently at! 🙂
I Kathryn. I am active duty military stationed at Robins and just came across your blog today. Are you still based there? My husband and I live off base and funny enough we were on base today (3/9)walking the 5k with our dog and discussing the possibility of selling our home and moving on base, for a number of different reasons, most of them being what you stated in the pro’s. We have some friends who live in a townhome across from the lake like you do.
Yes, we are still stationed here and that’s funny because we were out from about 12:15 -1:00 pm today playing with my son at the park! How did you find my blog?
I actually had googled “robins afb military housing” and clicked on images to look for pictures and you had a picture of base housing and then I clicked on your link. Small world……or is it? ha! We were walking between 0830-0930 this morning. Does your husband work on the 78th side or JSTARS side? I wasn’t able to find many pictures on-line but again our friends live right across from the lake too and we go to their house often and I’ve seen an officer’s house too so I’ve got a pretty good idea of looks, size, etc. to be expected for our rank/BAH allowance. I have been based here almost 2 years and never known anyone here who has a blog, which is great by the way.