Military living isn’t really all that different than living as a civilian. Many make military living out to be harsh and gloomy but in reality the military life can be a great deal of fun. For those that have access to a military base there are numerous means of having fun without ever leaving the base. In fact military bases are built to be small towns that are able to provide the comforts of home all within the gates. It isn’t about closing off the military from the rest of the world as much as it is about bringing an increased quality of living at a lower cost to military families.
Most military based have a general look and feel to them. Many even have the same basic buildings, but there are definitely numerous forms of shopping and entertainment on a military base much like what would be seen in the civilian world.
Types of shopping on a military base?
Shopping is actually pretty good on a military base. The main reason why it is so good is because the military doesn’t pay taxes on a lot of goods that they purchase. It is also possible to purchase goods at a significant discount because the merchants allowed on base aren’t typically trying to make an obscene profit. They are trying to make only enough to keep their operations going on the based throughout the world. This is the reason why many people that don’t live on a military base often ask others to buy items for them when they go to a base.
On the base normal shopping would typically include a Base Exchange, Commissary, Shopette, and Class Six. The base exchange is called something different from one military base to the next. It is typically based on the type of military that is established at that base. For example the Navy has the Naval Exchange (NEX), Army has the Post Exchange (PX), and the Air Force has the Base Exchange (BX). These are all owned by the same organization which is Aafes (Army Air Force Exchange Services). The Exchange offers numerous name brand clothes, computers, furniture, garden equipment, and basically is much like any other major retailer such as a Target or Wal Mart. The stores normally have a similar layout and can be small or large depending the size of the military base.
The commissary is another major building on the military base. This is basically a grocery store. The main difference is that rather than having a profit the price on the shelf is the cost of the good and they charge a surcharge at the register that is basically their profit margin. The goal of the commissary isn’t to make a great deal of money off of the troops and their families. The goal of the commissary is to simply profit comfort items regardless of where people are stationed.
The Shopette is just a normal corner store. They will often times have a gas station, sometimes an automotive repair shop, tire shop, etc. These buildings could also be self standing as well. The class six is another small shop similar to the shopette but this is where liquor is sold. Sometimes the Class Six is combined with the Shopette or BX but most of the time it is a building that stands alone.
Also within the area of the BX there are normally numerous other vendors that exist. There is normally a strip mall type feel where smaller vendors are able to setup show inside of the building. They could provide any variety of services or goods and will typically pay rent to use the space directly to the BX.
Services Provide on Base
There are loads of services that can be found on base. The base is meant to be fully functional without the outside world so the services could be substantial depending upon the location of the base. Some bases are going to have numerous services while others are just going to have the basics.
Most every base is going to have some type of an automotive shop. In this area military personnel can take their vehicles where they can either work on them using provided equipment and have the employees help them out or they can have it professionally done. This is a great place to get oil changed or perform small repairs. They have the equipment necessary to make repairs and can offer their expertise to assist in repairs as well.
The next service is the barbershop, beauty salon, and nail salon. These exist on most every base regardless of the location. This is a basic staple. Each service is normally placed in its own location but they are very similar to what could be found off base both in styling and in the quality of the service received. Sometimes there are also shoe shines shops in the same area as well.
There are fire departments, schools, police departments, libraries, computer labs, and other services on bases that most people would never think about. Again it is all about making it so that personnel don’t have to leave the base if they don’t want to. Even the post office and local floral shop are right around the corner. The base even offers several denominations of church as well that are available to military and their families. Even commercial banks have a place on the military base to make that much easier.
Recreation on Bases
Recreation can differ drastically from one military base to another. The recreation is typically based on the local area that the base is located. Some bases offer a considerable amount of recreation while others are somewhat limited. There are a few places that can be found at most every base around the world as basic means of entertainment. The enlisted club and officers club are pretty popular destinations on military bases after hours. These locations are basicallly bars that are located on base separated for officers and enlisted members and their families. Theaters are also available on bases. They normally have relatively new movies at super low costs. The bowling alley is another major staple. It is normal to see the bowling alleys absolutely packed and many even feature cosmic bowling.
For those that are looking to get in a little bit better shape or experience nature there is a community center on most every base for the children. Normally attached to the community center is a gym that can be used by everything. The size of the gym is dependent upon the size of the base. These gyms can have pools, they can have childcare centers, some of play areas for kids, indoor running tracks, rock climbing walls, and a variety of other things. The gym is normally a very happening place for military personnel as fitness is an important aspect of the military. Those looking for adventure can go to recreation yard and rent different camping, fishing, kayaking, or whatever else kind of gear is needed for those adventures. There are even guides that can take a group out on adventures during set times.
In Florida many of the bases have their own private beaches. These beaches are often times just as nice as commercial beaches but without all of the people. Fishing is popular at many of the beaches as well and there are typically docks provided on lakes throughout most military bases. For children there are numerous playgrounds throughout the residential areas and near most recreation areas. In Alaska there is actually a snowboarding/skiing hill with a fully functional lift on Elmendorf Air Force Base. At the neighboring Fort Richardson they have a tow rope. They even have equipment rental available for those looking to take up the sport for the first time. Even sledding hills have use of the mountains with tow ropes to make the process of getting back up even easier. In warmer areas most of the bases have several different pools with lifeguards, tennis courts, baseball fields, basketball courts, running trails, and even shooting ranges.
It is mind blowing just how many different types of recreation are available on a military base and would take a very long time to actually experience all of it.
Food and Restaurants on Base
Food is just as important as other services on a military base. Normally food is everywhere on a base. Unfortunately the food choices are much more limited than the other services but there are scores of fast food style dining establishments. Normally a base will have Burger King, Taco Bell, Anthony’s Pizza, Robin Hood Subs, Charleys, Subway, Arby’s, and many other different restaurants. Most every food establishment is a nationally recognized chain however there are rarely any good sit down restaurants. It is normally fast food.
Living on base is much better than many people make it out to be. It is possible for a military family to never leave the base since every service they need is provided for them. There are very few services that can’t be found on a military base and for those often times there is a company that has a contract to come on base to service military members.