I’m a little tardy to the party for this month’s The Military Minute linkup with Missy of Loving Life Moore, but that’s okay. I’m incredibly excited about this month’s particular writing prompt.
Do you prefer on- or off-post (base) living, and why?
First, let me dive into a few of our experiences living both on-post and off-post during the past 3 years of marriage.
Fort Knox, Kentucky: As we began planning our wedding and preparing for newlywed life, we knew that we wanted to live on-post. The Fort Knox/Radcliff area severely lacked rental house options, especially in the E-4/E-5 BAH bracket. Second, as newlyweds, we didn’t have the necessary funds for rental, pet, and utility deposits. Finally, we knew we could get “more for our money” by living on-post. Andy became an NCO a few months before we were married, which allowed us to qualify for a particular neighborhood that had only 3 and 4 bedroom homes. While we didn’t need a 3-bedroom house for just the 2 of us, that’s what we requested and ultimately received. We lived in an off-post a rental apartment for 6 weeks between the wedding and our on-post move-in date. Said rental apartment had a problem with roaches and smelling like old people, so needless to say we were thrilled to move on-post. Our Prichard Place house sure spoiled us! It’s been 2 years since we left that house and I still miss it. It will forever be the standard in what we expect in a home, which made house-hunting at our next duty station incredibly disappointing.
Mason City, Iowa: A quick backstory for those of you who are unfamiliar– Andy is currently on a 3-year “career broadening” assignment as a Recruiter for active-duty Army and Army Reserve. No, he is not a permanent Recruiter– he’s an Engineer by training and was “volun-told” to be a Recruiter. We will be stationed at an Army post again after this assignment is complete, Andy will return to active-duty Army Engineering, and we will experience deployments, field exercises, and everything else that regular Army life brings.
Being stationed in the middle-of-nowhere with the nearest Army post 6 hours away means our only option was to live off-post. I will be blunt: we have had a horrific time renting here. As most of the tenants in north Iowa are in a lower income bracket, rental homes are generally older and need lots of upkeep. Landlords and property management agencies aren’t the best to work with, and in my opinion, put as little money into maintaining rental homes as is legally possible. We were blatantly discriminated against during our rental house search because we are “not locals” and people don’t know our background. (Um hello, we listed multiple NCOs and the previous military housing company as rental references who can confirm that we are good tenants! Plus, my husband’s non-taxable housing allowance is completely separate from his paycheck, and in this area with a low cost-of-living, completely covers rent and utilities in addition to pocketing a few hundred dollars a month.) It was incredibly frustrating being turned down for house after house while living in a borrowed camper, so we settled on the first house we were offered. I can’t go into detail about the numerous problems with the house, so we will leave it at this: This house has not been a good fit for our family, especially now that we have a baby on the way.
As with everything else we’ve experienced in this nightmare of an assignment that is life on Recruiting duty in an entirely civilian area, I try to remind myself that this isn’t “real” Army life; living off-post will be a better experience in a military community where renting isn’t uncommon.
For our upcoming PCS next summer, we’re open to both on-post and off-post living. Honestly, our decision will depend entirely on where we’re stationed, the length of the waiting list for post housing, the off-post rental economy, etc. Plus, we will have a child by then, so things like neighborhood safety, playgrounds, and ease of making friends will add a whole new dimension to consider!
If you’re interested in weighing in your thoughts about on-post versus off-post life, join us for the linkup!