"Because my father was in the Air Force, I have lived
on several Air Force bases. The Air Force provides their
people and families excellent services and housing."
– Melanie Lewis, Computer Information Systems, Wilkes
We are all members of a community. Whether it is our neighborhoods,
our churches, or our schools, we all have somewhere we feel
comfortable or at ease. As an Air Force officer, much of
your professional and social lives will revolve around the
Air Force base. All Air Force bases have one thing in common:
each is a concentrated, organized community of people, facilities
and services necessary to keep the Air Force in operation.
As far back as the Wright Brothers, aircraft were built
first, and then the base was designed to fit the needs of
the aircraft. During World War I, airfields were generally
near the front lines and were moved as required since they
only needed short runways for takeoffs and landings. Any
properly located grass-covered field with adequate drainage
and reasonably level terrain could serve as an airfield.
As aircraft capabilities improved, requirements for air
base facilities became a factor. Larger aircraft required
more room for parking, takeoff and landing. As planes became
more complex, their maintenance requirements also expanded.
Extensive support areas for these and other activities were
needed to keep aircraft ready for operations. In place of
small groups of mechanics and aviators, hundreds and sometimes
thousands of people were needed to operate the new air base.
Individual and family housing complexes were built and the
modern air base became an organized, self-sustaining unit.
Every Air Force base is functionally designed to support
a specific mission of the Air Force, such as combat, mobility,
education and training, or even logistics. Today's typical
air base is a compactly organized community, engaged in
carrying out the military mission and maintaining most of
the social, religious and educational activities required
by its members. In the past, the air base community was
about five to ten miles from the nearest civilian community.
However, now that distinction has disappeared at many bases.
Every base has its own post office, police and fire departments,
and utility system. Buildings are arranged according to
a master plan that specifies the location of dormitories,
family housing, hangars, maintenance shops, hospitals, schools,
chapels, theaters and other facilities that make up an ordinary
The Air Force knows people are our most important asset.
As such, the Air Force has made quality-of-life issues around
the base a top priority. In order for you to better understand
life on an Air Force base, let's take a look at some of
Security Forces – One of the first things you'll
notice when entering a base are the Security Forces at the
entrance gate. Our well-trained security and police forces
not only provide protection of Air Force resources, but
a secure environment for you and your family to work, live
Exercises/Inspections – As part of the wider Air
Force, each base has a mission that contributes to the overall
readiness of our nation's defense. Practice and training
for that mission is part of life at the base. So, if you
see people running around in funny suits, more aircraft
flying than normal, or out-of-town inspectors checking out
the activities on base, that's just part of life on an Air
Force base. Just remember that it's the practice and operational
experience that make ours the best Air and Space Force in
Medical Facilities/Health-Care Facilities – Everyone
in the Air Force receives totally free medical and dental
care. And if the special care you need isn't available where
you are stationed, you will be taken to the nearest Air
Force facility where it can be administered. In addition,
very-low-cost life insurance is available for Air Force
personnel. All large bases have hospitals and a dental clinic,
and other bases have at least a clinic or dispensary. For
isolated units, the Air Force contracts with civilian doctors
and dentists for professional service. Your family has access
to the medical facilities on base, and the TRICARE managed
health-care system is designed to provide for their care,
on and off base.
Base Housing – If you live in base housing, it's
all free. No rent. No utility costs. No real estate taxes.
Most bases provide some housing for both single and married
officers. If you're single, you may live in the Bachelor
Officer Quarters (BOQ), which is a room or suite, or you
may live off base. BOQs are common at overseas bases. If
you have a family, you can live in a house on base or live
off base. Most bases also provide temporary or Visiting
Officers Quarters (VOQ) for officers who are temporarily
at a base. They also provide Temporary Living Facilities
(TLF) for families who are either just arriving on or departing
from the base. If you live off base, then don't forget you'll
receive a Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) each month.
Your BAH is meant to help defray the cost of housing and
Continuing Education – Interested in continuing your
education? Working towards your BA, MA or MS? Most bases
have educational facilities. College classrooms are common
on Air Force bases. The base education office runs the Air
Force education services program. Through this office, you
can take courses related to your job or take graduate courses.
Additionally, many overseas base Community Centers offer
language and cultural orientation programs.
Child Care and Education – A kid's life on an air
base is full of activities and sports. Many air bases have
youth activity centers, libraries and child development
centers that provide day care services. Schools are always
a first priority for the Air Force. Every air base either
provides schools for dependent children, or is associated
with nearby public schools.
Activities for Children – You and your family are
important members of the Air Force team. As such, you'll
find a variety of programs geared toward your children.
After-school activities, community service organizations
(Boy/Girl Scouts), youth centers and sports programs are
just a few of the programs aimed at providing your child
a safe environment to explore, mature and make friends.
Supermarket Shopping (The Commissary) – The base
commissary is the Air Force version of a supermarket where
you can buy groceries and other household items. You save
roughly twenty to twenty-five percent by shopping at the
commissary, for the same things you buy "downtown."
All commissaries throughout the Department of Defense are
run by the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA).
Department Store Shopping, The Base Exchange (BX) –
The Base Exchange is the Air Force version of a department
store. You save money by shopping at the BX, and just about
anything you can think of can be bought there. These facilities
can range from well-equipped convenience stores to major
department stores or even shopping malls selling everything
from food to appliances, clothes and hardware and gas for
your car. Many bases have a "BX mall," and this
facility in most cases will have a barbershop, beauty shop,
jewelry shop, dry cleaners, fast-food restaurants, and some
small vendors near the main BX entrance. Nearly everything
at the BX is the finest quality and prices are much lower
(for Air Force people) than stores off the base. At the
same time, most Air Force bases tend to attract a crowd
of civilian shopping facilities nearby that also cater to
Air Force personnel with good merchandise and good prices.
The BX, and many of the on-base service stores, are run
by the Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES).
Family/People/Wellness Centers – These centers are
staffed by professionals and are available to provide assistance
for a wide variety of your personal needs. Services might
range from financial management to smoking cessation classes,
from parenting classes to family counseling, career enhancement
to queries on new bases.
Hobbies – Trying to figure out what to do with your
spare time? Wondering what might be available to keep your
family happy? Most bases have diverse recreational facilities:
auto hobby shop, movie theater, library, fitness center,
bowling lanes, arts and crafts center, tennis courts, athletic
fields, picnic areas, and other facilities. Many bases have
golf courses, aero clubs, riding clubs, and shooting ranges.
Some bases even have their own marina. Many also provide
excellent facilities for hobby and craft pursuits such as
woodworking, do-it-yourself auto repair shops, computer
and personal electronics labs, music, textiles, fine arts
and much more. Bases also sponsor intramural and varsity
sports teams in many sports like football, basketball, softball,
bowling and other sports.
Legal – The base also has legal officers who will
help military personnel and their dependents with their
legal problems. At one time or another, most officers need
legal assistance and advice on matters such as rental contracts,
taxes, insurance, wills, powers of attorney and other problems.
Outdoor Recreation – Imagine living an hour from
London or Venice. Imagine your base owns a beach on the
sunny Gulf Coast of Florida. Imagine you are living a short
ride from Mount McKinley, Mount Rushmore or the beaches
of Hawaii. Well, many of our Air Force bases are situated
in some of the most beautiful and scenic areas of our country,
as well as exotic places around the world. Additionally,
the base's community center offers low-cost tours and trips
to many of these places.
Recreation (Vacation Spots Around the World) – Not
sure where to go for vacation? Maybe you should look into
some of the Armed Forces Recreation Centers (AFRCs). You
can spend time skiing the Alps, enjoying Cape Cod, sunning
on the beaches of Hawaii or chatting with Mickey Mouse.
One of the hidden benefits you receive is access to the
AFRCs around the world. These facilities are situated in
some of the most sought-after vacation locations and provide
you discounted lodging and discounted tickets to the local
sights and attractions.
Recreation (Sports & Fitness) – Your fitness
is important to the Air Force; as such, each base has a
fitness center-gym; some even have two. Whether it's free
weights or aerobic bikes, basketball or racquetball, you'll
find a wide variety of fitness equipment and facilities
at an Air Force base. And if you like team sports and competition,
you'll be interested in some of the many intramural and
varsity sports programs on base – like football, basketball,
softball, bowling and other sports. Many bases have golf
courses, tennis courts, athletic fields, riding clubs and
The O'Club – The officers' club usually serves the
dual function of being a social club and meeting location.
Besides a dining room, which usually serves at least lunch
and dinner daily, the club carries out a continuing program
of parties, dinners, and other entertainment. Many have
swimming pools and tennis courts.
Religious Activities – Religious activities on base
are much like those in the civilian community. In the base
chapel, chaplains of different faiths conduct services and
ceremonies according to their faith or denomination. Worship
is an important part of life on the base. Air Force members
are free to attend, or not attend, religious services of
their choice, either on base or off. Most air bases provide
chapel services for people of Protestant, Catholic and Jewish
faiths. Nearby local churches and synagogues usually have
very active programs that attract many Air Force members
and families to participate.
Community Outreach – Air Force members and their
families often provide outreach assistance to the local
communities, in a sense returning some of the goodwill local
communities provide the Air Force bases. This can range
from food drives and cleanups to flood and natural disaster
Fire Prevention/Fire Fighting – Air Force fire fighters
and disaster preparedness teams provide quick reaction protection
of our base resources as well as providing preventative
education for all of the base populace.