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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.
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?