My husband and I have never lived on base. A few of the bases we were stationed at didn’t have housing available for us. Even when we did have the possibility, living on base is not something that either of us ever had the desire to pursue. The reason is because even though we are a military family and enjoy being a part of such a tight-knit community, we also enjoy the feeling of separation that living off base lends at the end of the day. My husband gains the ability to leave work behind rather than simply driving down the road to the on-base housing complex, and I am afforded the ability to intermingle my military life experience with a more traditional living situation.
The decision to live on base or off has always been an easy one for us. But for others this question might pose more uncertainty. Surely there are just as many reasons why someone might choose to live on base as there are for my husband and I to live off base. I recently asked several fellow military spouses who have lived both on and off base to provide their own opinions on their living experiences:
Pros for living on base:
-Living among a community of families who are going through the same challenges and are available to each other for help and support
-Easy access to on-base amenities such as the Commissary, Exchange, gas station, clinics, theatre, and base pool.
-Utilities are covered, except for electric if usage goes above the grace limit.
-Service members have a short commute and can even come home for a quick lunch if time allows.
-A feeling of safety and security, knowing that everyone in the neighborhood is looking out for each other.
-Plenty of gathering areas for families to meet and for kids to play.
Pros for living off base:
-Not having to worry about being put on a waiting list for on-base housing
-The ability to buy a home and begin building equity.
-Freedom to choose a house with more living space, a larger yard, and the ability to make changes, to add a personal touch.
-The military member does not have to feel like he/she lives at work
-Feeling more in-touch with the local area rather than always relying on base amenities for needs and entertainment.
-Avoiding the gossip train that can be involved with living among an on-base community.
Probably the greatest advantage to living off base for me is the ability to develop relationships with a greater array of people, such as those who are not military or those who are in different branches of military. Some of my best friends are people who fall into one of these two categories and I would probably not have met them had it not been for living off base. I cannot imagine not having them in my life.
Hopefully these lists will provide a good starting point for what to consider when choosing to live on or off base. Each family is different and the decision on where to live can only be decided on an individual basis. The challenges of military life are many, and living situations can make or break anyone’s attitude towards them. I encourage any military family who is on the fence about living on base or off to very carefully consider the pros and cons of both in order to choose what will work best for them. It might just make the difference between merely surviving military life and thriving in military life.