First Time Living on Base? Here’s What You Need to Know

There’s a first time for everything, and living on base is no different.

Moving onto a military base can seem daunting, especially if you don’t know what to expect.

Let me help you! Below, you’ll find insider tips & tricks for living on a military base.

If you have any questions, please reach out to me! I’m always here & I want to help you feel confident and prepared.

You NEED to have ID

Before you even get on the base, you need to be prepared with ID. With that being said, every base is different.

Some require you as a spouse to have a USID when you go onto base unaccompanied, which you can learn more about here.

Others require a visitor pass, which you can get at the visitors center just outside of the base. However, these tend to not last very long (some only last for one day!). It’s definitely worth it to get an ID.

Reveille, Retreat, & Taps

Reveille is played at sunrise (or sometime in the early morning) to indicate the start of the duty day and raising of the colors. As a civilian, you do not need to salute, but are expected to stand with your right hand over your heart and face the closest flag. If you can’t find a flag, face the music.

Retreat is played at sunset (or sometime in the evening) to indicate the end of the duty day and lowering of the colors. As a civilian, you do not need to salute, but you are expected to stand with your right hand over your heart and face the closest flag. Again, if you can’t find a flag, face the music.

For BOTH of these traditions, you need to pull over your vehicle if you are in the car. If you are in a building, you are not required to face the music/flag, and you do not need to place your right hand over your heart.

Taps is sounded at 2100 hours (9:00 pm) to end the day and start the “quiet hours”. You do NOT need to do anything during Taps.

You don’t buy, you rent

When you live on a military base, you are required to sign a lease to rent a home, townhome, or other housing unit on base. Of course, this comes with pros and cons, but ultimately it means you are not the homeowner, but the renter.

You are typically given a work order phone number or web portal to submit work orders in case any appliance or other permanent fixture in the home breaks.

Request a walk-through

If you are able to walk through the home before signing the contract, do it!

You don’t have to sign on the first home they offer you, but they may have rules about turning it down.

For example, if you aren’t satisfied with the home they offer you, you may be put further down (or at the back) of the waiting list and potentially wait for months before a new home opens up.

Obviously, this is an exaggerated example, but it’s better to ask the base housing office all of your questions before signing anything.

Housing is Privatized

This simply means that the military is not in charge of your housing, but a separate company that the military has a contract with.

There are 5 main privatized housing companies, and you can find more information about your specific base here.

Rent is very similar to BAH

BAH stands for Basic Allowance for Housing, which you can learn more about here.

In a nutshell, BAH is a monthly monetary allowance the military provides for their service members to partially cover housing costs (rent or mortgage payments).

While living on base, rent for your housing is automatically taken out of the service members paycheck, and is usually about the same amount as their BAH they receive.

Close proximity to food, gas, and amenities

So much of what you may need can be found on base!

There’s typically a gas station, stores (BX/NEX/PX), a grocery store (the commissary), pool, library, gym, and fast food restaurants. Some even have schools on base.

There isn’t much privacy

With the convenience of close proximity also comes the negative aspects. Like not much privacy.

The on base housing communities tend to be in close quarters, with houses built right next to each other.

You’ll get to know your neighbors quickly, if not by name, then at least by face.

Some pets/animals are not allowed

Each base has different rules, but many on base housing communities do not allow certain breeds of dogs, such as American Pit Bull Terriers and Bull Mastiffs. The base housing office will have a list of dog breeds that are not allowed.

Other animals usually not allowed are poisonous snakes, rats, skunks, and other exotic animals.

On base childcare

Some bases have Child Development Centers (CDC’s) that offer care for children. Each base is different, and each center will have different hours, rules, and availability.

This article has excellent resources for Military Childcare Programs, both on and off base.

Document everything

As a general rule when renting, do a walk through of the home before moving any items in.

Make a note of any damage, cracks, holes, leaks, and any lights or appliances that don’t work.

Let the housing office know so that you are not responsible for any previous damage when you eventually move out.

You can create a strong community

On base housing comes with a built-in community that is full of other military families facing the same or similar experiences.

Many of the housing companies organize events to bring the community closer and to find belonging.

From taking out your trash on garbage day to bringing dinner over after a birth, some of the strongest military friendships have been created from being on base neighbors.

Every base is different

Ultimately, every base is different. Although there are similarities among each military base, there always seems to be an exception to the norm.

A great way to feel out the on base housing community is to find a Facebook group for the families living on or around your base.

Another option is to find the contact information for the housing office for your base and contact them.


If you need specific help, or have more questions, please reach out to me! It’s ALWAYS free. I simply want you to feel confident and prepared. 🙂

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