Moving on Base (For Dummies)

When I first moved down south to start my PGY1 year (post graduate year), I had matched into a preliminary internship meaning I had a 1 year contract. Where the base is situated, a lot of the apartments and housing developments  are across a waterway meaning that it was a 20+ minute commute over several bridges to work.  I decided to move into an apartment complex that several other residents lived in and was recommended to me. On the 14 hour days as I stumbled out of the hospital, I would drive past base housing and look at the people going on runs in the last glimmer of sunlight or sitting outside on their porch enjoying some down time. A twenty minute commute didn’t sound like a lot but I started lamenting my trek thinking what I could do with an extra 40+ minutes a day.

When I matched into a categorical residency and new I would be staying in the area an additional 5 years I started looking at more suitable long term housing options. I knew staying in a 1 bedroom apartment with a rambunctious dog and my boyfriend was not a great solution. I looked into buying a house and even put in an offer but as the inspector costs, flood insurance, future home repairs started adding up, I decided the stress of buying and maintaining a home was not worth it. Being unmarried and without dependents I didn’t think living on base was an option for me but I decided to take a chance and reach out to the base housing company.

At my base, base housing opens up to active duty members without dependents when the overall occupancy falls below 90%. Fortunately as this is a training base, a lot of people where in the process of PSCing to their next duty station at the end of the academic year which is exactly when I was in need of a new house.  So now that I’ve been in my house for a little over a month I decided to share my thoughts on moving onto base.

COST: Moving onto base will save me a significant amount of money during my time here. I was assigned to a 3 bed/2.5 bath house with 2 car garage and a fenced yard and the cost is my BAH + $100 (which is the difference between BAH and BAH + 1 dependent for my rank in this zip code). All utilities are included other than cable/internet. Additionally the front lawn is mowed and maintained by the housing company.

QUALITY: I’m pleasantly surprised at the quality of this house. Although I live in close proximity to my neighbors my house is always quiet. The house has fairly basic fixtures (think laminate flooring & countertops) but appears to be well constructed. Additionally I have never lived in a house with so much storage! There are walk in closets all over the place!

NEIGHBORHOOD: I love that my neighbors and I have the unifying bond of being in the military or part of a military family. Everyone is friendly and abides by base and neighborhood rules. I love that this is an active community and you will frequently see kids riding bikes and people going for runs. There are also plenty of neighborhood events like kids arts and craft nights, social events and yard sales. Additionally living on base I am in close proximity to all the other benefits base has to offer like the commissary, the BX, the Officer’s club, the golf course, the marina etc

CUSTOMER SERVICE: Just recently my AC decided to stop working on the 4th of July. By the time I noticed my house had already gotten up to 84 degrees and with high temps expected to be in the high 90s I didn’t think I could last until the next day before asking someone to come fix it. I called the maintenance team and to my surprise someone was at my door within 20 minutes.

SAFETY: Living on base feels like I’m living in the most secure gated community. I like that neighborhood access is limited to those who have base access. I feel comfortable going for runs after the sun goes down and I can walk my dog in the morning without worrying if I’ll run into any unsavory characters. In addition living on base means someone else is accountable for my safety. Twice last year our base was closed due to the threat of hurricane.  Living on base I’m on someones radar should there be some catastrophic event like hurricane/tornado/flooding and there are personal here who are capable of helping those who have to shelter in place during severe weather  (medical, security forces, etc.) versus if I were out in the community. Additionally in my program we have several rotations at outside hospitals and out of state. During our second year we are gone for about 30 weeks in total. I feel relieved that my house is secure and well taken care of even though my house will be vacant for a significant amount of time

My Advice:

1.) Get on the housing wait list:

Eligibility for base housing depends on the service branch and the type of housing available at that installation. At my base on base housing is advertised for E7 to O3 members, but there is a separate off base gated community for married enlisted members below E7 rank. As stated above this housing is typically reserved for active duty members w/ dependents but it opens to those without dependents if occupancy <90%. Some bases require everyone live on base and you are only permitted to live off base if there aren’t enough houses available for all active duty members.  The best way to learn about your bases rules is to call the housing office. For incoming residents, the program coordinator may be a good point of contact to start your base housing application because they can provide you with a “letter of eligibility” which will likely be required to be considered. Like most things with military this can be a lengthy process. I submitted my application for base housing in January and I was approved early May.

2.) Be aware of base housing issues

Base housing has gotten some bad press in recent years due to poor maintenance and upkeep of some base housing after housing was privatized. Most commonly families have complained of maintenance delays, issues with mold, infestations, and water damage.  In spring of 2019 these issues came to light after thousands of military families responded to a survey regarding the safety and quality of base housing and the CEOs of these companies had to testify in front of congress due to mismanagement of base housing. I have noticed my base has been very proactive regarding base issues having numerous town halls

I didn’t find much feedback regarding housing issues at this base online from the official housing site but when I called to speak with a representative on base she was very helpful and discussed with me the known issues on this base (termites and mold) and what the base had done to fix and prevent these issues in the future. I also found it to be very helpful to join the official Facebook page of the neighborhood as well as the “wives/spouses group” as they can give a first hand review.

3.) Use a reputable moving company

I rented a moving truck through a national rental company and hired local movers that were recommended via the website who had hundreds of 5 star reviews. I called the moving company weeks before my move to confirm that their movers were able to get on base. They said it shouldn’t be a problem as long as I had a valid moving contract. On moving day I had three young men arrive and they very quickly helped me pack up my apartment and load it into the moving truck. When we proceeded to the commercial gate (the gate on base that all trucks/contractors/etc must utilize) I was waved through after showing the gate guard my moving truck rental agreement and allowing them to do a search of the contents. I pulled forward and waited for my 3 movers, in the car behind me, to get cleared to enter base. Forty minutes passed before I was approached by the gate guard who informed me that one of my movers had an active warrant and was under arrest, another mover had a felony conviction and was prohibited from entering and the third mover had to escort his coworker with the felony conviction off of base. (YEESH!) As if moving wasn’t stressful enough, I had to figure out a way to unload my truck without the help of movers, and without going over on my truck rental time.  If I had to move onto base again I would either utilize a local veteran owned company to work with or try and recruit some coworkers.

4.) Learn base access rules

I’m in a unique situation because my non-military boyfriend lives with me. In order to allow him to have access to the base I sponsor him for a pass which can last up to 1 year at a time however he won’t have access to any of the base amenities that require an active duty or spouse ID.  I’ve found that most services I utilize (food delivery, grocery delivery, internet provider) have been able to get on base without any issues. However if you want a relative or friend to be able to visit or stay for a couple of days you will have to plan several weeks in advance to obtain a base access pass. Rules vary depending on installation and current security threat level.

Overall I am very happy with my decision to move on base and I’ve recommended it to my co-residents as well as the incoming interns. Often time, in a military residency I feel like we miss out on the typical “military experience”. We don’t really have any squadron responsibilities (mandatory PT, meetings, etc.), we hardly ever wear our ABUs at work because we are usually required to wear hospital issued scrubs, and at many programs our time is split between military and civilian hospitals. Living on base I feel much more connected with my military community. Additionally I like that my commute to the hospital takes about 5 minutes, and if I’m called in in the middle of the night I don’t have to worry about which gate is open overnight.

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