It’s June–the beginning of summer and what is known in the military world as “PCS season.” As my husband and I wrap up our time here at Fort Hood and consider new housing options at our future assignment, we have found ourselves reflecting lately on why it is that we have loved our experience living on-post so much.
Because we have the unique perspective of living both on- and off-post here at what has been our first duty station, I feel compelled to share our opinion based on experiencing two contrary housing options, and why we have determined living on-post to be the best fit for our military family:
Military housing–especially in certain branches like the Army–gets a bad wrap a lot of the time. This is one of the reasons we did not initially consider on-post housing when we moved to Fort Hood. We’d heard horror stories, rampant among Facebook pages and news channels. We’d continually heard how poor the housing was at Fort Hood, and my husband was also under the impression that if we lived on-post, he would never feel like he was “off duty.” It was an easy decision for us to make, but one we strongly came to regret as we packed and moved ourselves onto Fort Hood, just a year later.
In our almost-four years of being stationed here, all of the assumptions and beliefs we held prior to arriving were proved wrong. We have truly loved our experience living in on-post housing.
Here are the reasons why:
1: We feel it is where we are safest as a family.
This was our biggest reason for making the decision to move from an off-post to on-post home. After the birth of our first child, and in anticipation of my husband’s upcoming deployment, I was not comfortable with the idea of living on my own in our current-at-the-time neighborhood that we had unfortunately not researched well enough before we moved into the year prior. I was tired of having to pack up the car and drive to an area where I felt safe just to take our dog on a walk.
Our experience living on-post has been nothing but ideal in ensuring the sense of security and wellbeing that every family hopes for. Not only are we now living in a gated community protected by military personnel and strict entrance guidelines, but we are among neighbors with similar families and lifestyles and backgrounds. There is an immediate trust and sense of community when you move into a military neighborhood.
2: It maximizes the time my soldier and I get to spend together.
As long as he isn’t swamped with tasks at work, my husband comes home for a hot plate of eggs and toast after PT and a sit-down lunch sometime in the afternoon. Not only do I not have to worry about packing meals for him, but I get to eat three meals a day with him. This allows our son to see his daddy throughout the day, and also adds some opportunities for mid-day conversations and affections between my husband and me.
My husband loves that he gets to set his alarm for the last possible moment to arrive at work, not having to worry about a commute or gate traffic and when the work day is over, it is just a few minutes for him to arrive home. If he is on staff duty–a 24 hour period he must remain on-post and on-call–he is able to be in our home. Soldiers who live off-post are unable to be home for those 24 hours, since they are restricted off-post.
And sometimes, he’ll just drop by because he can. The other day, I was having a rough morning, and he spontaneously arrived home around 10am just to come give me a hug.
3: We save money.
Not only do we save some of our housing allowance (BAH) each month, but we do not have to pay for utilities. This is especially nice on certain days, like summer afternoons when we want the AC blasting at full speed, to run the sprinkler for a bit too long, when we like to fill up our little blowup pool with fresh cold water each day–or when I’m at my wit’s end trying to cook dinner and my son wants to play in the kitchen sink.
We may not have the most luxurious home interior, but the luxury of using resources at no expense is worth so much more to us.
4: There are endless resources and support available–especially during family separations such as deployments.
Living on-post equips a military family with a variety of resources they would not receive if living off-post. For instance, our front lawns are maintained by a company hired by the post. We are only responsible for maintaining our backyards–but even that is taken care of when our spouses are deployed. Additionally, during deployments, spouses are offered “punch cards” where they are able to request assistance from the Maintenance Department with odd jobs (i.e. painting walls, moving heavy furniture, etc) when a spouse isn’t around to help with those jobs.
The Lawn & Garden center has also been a huge perk. Whenever our light bulbs, air filters, blinds, etc. need to be replaced, we are able to pick up new ones free-of-charge.
5: Military neighborhoods offer the very best sense of community.
When you move on-post, you are guaranteed to immediately have common bonds with each and every one of your neighbors. You are all military families, meaning at least one member in each household is currently serving in the military. The other wives will often have a spouse with similar rank, and children at a similar age to your own. Your lifestyles will often be the same. Neighborhood walks and playdates at the park are easy ways to make friends quickly. There are no cliques because everyone fits into one of three categories: new, been here for some time, or leaving soon. Everyone surrounding you has an understanding of your lifestyle, and will usually be more than willing to help out in any way…letting your dog out, taking your children while you go to the doctor, lending you a lawnmower. Some of my best friends and people I’ve counted on most have been my on-post neighbors.
6: Living on a military installation makes everything close and convenient.
I remember the first time my husband drove me onto an Army post after we married, I was shocked by how big it was. I hadn’t realized that military bases are essentially designed to function as their own cities. There are gas stations, grocery stores, post offices, restaurants, schools, gyms, banks, hospitals, car maintenance shops, car washes, etc. There are even places to entertain, such as movie theaters, bowling alleys, community pools and playgrounds. Not only are all of these places available to military families, but they are all just a short drive away if you reside on-post.In fact, our gas station, post-office, elementary school, community pool, and more than three playgrounds are all within easy walking distance from our house.
While we have loved living on-post, I won’t ever pretend it’s been perfect. There are certainly some things that aren’t always convenient, like dealing with problems related to living in an older home, maintenance services that aren’t always as timely as you might like, and difficulties getting family or other civilians through the gate for gatherings in your home — however; it is our personal opinion that the perks of living in on-post housing far outweigh those inconveniences.