Life on Air Force base is very similar to the life in the civilian world. The Air Force has a lot more to offer than just training, working, sleeping. In fact, the base itself is more like a small, self-contained town where you can find everything from recreational spots, fitness centers, to shoppings centers and restaurants. The Air Force strives to provide their service men and women a good work and life balance.
Food and Tax Free Shopping
The Dining hall, so called Mess Hall or Chow hall, offers up to four meals a day including a midnight snack. There are also go-to meal options and fast food available for those who are always on the go. People who would enjoy cooking at home can buy grocery at the Commissary instead. The Commissary works like a typical grocery store on base including organic and brand-name items with no sales tax. The Base Exchange(BX), on the other hand, is a large shopping mall that offers a variety of goods and services such as electronics, clothings, home appliances, restaurants, nail salons, and hair salons. All the goods at BX are typically 20% less than those off base with no sales tax.
For those who are keen to study off duty, every AF has education centers and libraries to satisfy your pursuit for knowledge. Education centers provide Air Force service members courses from basic learning skills to graduate level course with college credit(through AF Community College). Airmen can also talk to the education counselor there to discuss their study plan and move forward to obtain a degree, be it for Associate or Bachelor Degree. For study breaks, airmen may borrow audiobooks, music CDs, and movies from the library. Free wifi and coffee shops are available in the library as well.
Recreation/Entertainment(varied by base)
There’s plenty of options for you to relax on base through its various recreation facilities. The Recreation Center provides Billiards, video games, air hockeys, TVs for service men to have a good time. Even your friends off base can sometimes join these events at the Recreation Center. There are typically movie theaters and bowling alleys for family fun or bonding between your squad. Some bases even have youth and adult bowling leagues to make bowling a serious hobby. If equipped, Golf course and Saddle Club are open to Air Force service members and their families too, which means you can enjoy golfing or horse riding right on base. Outdoor equipment rental is available at the Recreational Center for those who enjoys nature. You don’t have to search too far a place because a lot of the Air Force Base has a Recreational Camp nearby, which is good for camping, hiking, paint-balling, or canoeing, kayaking, skiing, etc. Those are perfect places for you and your family to unplug and unwind. (Here is a guidebook for all the Recreational Camp across all the 50 states for all Armed Services.)
When it comes to socializing and bonding, enlisted Airmen and Officers can join their each respective Club on base for parties and gatherings. Intramural Sports from basketball, soccer to baseball can strengthen your bond within your squad while maintaining your hobby for sports. Other work out opportunities at the fitness center and the gym are solid alternatives. Classes, programs and equipments are provided for every level of fitness for you to keep up with the physical training standard. The swimming pool on base, is also open to Airmen’s families and friends so you can team up and have a lap competition at any time. If your family and guests living outside of base wish to visit you, they can stay at an on-base inn for cheap.
When unforeseen situation takes place, every Air Force base ensures you and your family are taking good care of. Each base is equipped with Fire Station and Police Station that are ready for operation at any time. In the case that your car breaks down, you can always go to the DIY Automotive Center to get it fixed yourself for a fraction of the cost.
If you’re under the weather physically or mentally, the medical care facilities on base got you covered. The hospital provides care for their patients 24/7, including family care, mental health, physical therapy, etc for no charge. Dental care, health and wellness center, clinics and pharmacy are also on base within reasonable distance to make sure you and your families will resume back to a health state in no time. Vet Clinic is available to take care of your pets as well. If you wish to seek a moment of peace, you can go to the Air Force Chaplain for spiritual guidance regardless of your religious background(including atheists).
If you are in the Air Force with your family on base, the military will takes care of your family as well to make sure you can be worry-free at work. A lot of military bases hire military spouses and their family members to work directly on base, so that they can stay close to their loved ones while having a stable source of income.
Education for Children
For military families with kids, the School Age Program helps parents to take care of their kids between 5 to 12 to make sure they go to school and get back to the center on time. There are separate girl’s and boy’s program, as well as Air Force program to help these kids develop long term thinking. There are computer labs and webcams for them to talk to their parents overseas. If you wish to have a parents night out, you can drop your kids at the School Age Program for a few hours once a month.
Grade school on base from elementary to high school are available for school age kids. These on base grade schools all offer healthy food options so you don’t have to worry too much about their lunch box. In rare occasions when grade schools are not available or when the kid needs special accommodation, they can send their kids to nearby public schools off base.
For kids who are between 6 weeks and 5 years old, they can get enrolled to the Child Development Center, which is similar to a daycare center. The staff at CDC use a holistic approach to make child lesson plans based on their observation. The kids can develop their fine motor skills and learn to socialize with peers and adults alike. The fee will be charged based on parent’s income so it is more affordable than those you can find off base.
Sports and Entertainment for Children
Outside of school, there are Youth Sports Teams, Art Centers, playgrounds and parks for your kids to enjoy their spare time with their peers. These places are perfect for your family and other families on base to mingle and support each other during this children-raising process. Other seasonal family activities, such as Fourth of July Celebration, Easter Egg Hunt can guarantee you and your family will have a good time. Overall, the Air Force Base are extremely safe environment for your children to live and grow.