Military Benefits + Life on Base

service member lifting weights at the gym on base

Beyond the natural bonds and camaraderie that can thrive on military bases, there are also many dedicated programs and services that help support the basic sustenance and living quarter needs of all service members who call them home. While serving on base, you’ll find that all of the services and needs you would experience in a civilian practice are met, and often with lower- or no-cost options that are only available to service members and families.

Work–Life Balance

Service members are expected to work hard, just like at any job, but it’s a myth to say they don’t experience quality downtime or personal growth opportunities.

In fact, service members living on or near a base are provided with a variety of personal enrichment options that can help ensure their off-duty time is balanced, recreational and rewarding.

Unless you are deployed, your call schedules will be similar to a civilian physician. Since you also won't need to manage your own practice or deal with multiple insurance companies, you may also have more free time to spend with your family.

Day in the Life

Watch Army Battalion Surgeon Dr. Winegarner enjoy downtime with his family on an Ice rink.
Hunter Winegarner, M.D.

Special Forces Battalion Surgeon, Army

Ice Hockey With Family And Friends

When Hunter is off-duty, spending time with his family is top priority. Tonight after work, Hunter and his family head to the local ice rink to meet with friends and skate with members of his son's ice hockey team.

More About Work-Life Balance

WINEGARNER: So we're getting on home, and spending time with the family at five o'clock or so every day is enough time before my kids go to bed — they usually go and do something fun. A couple times a week we'll go and do some ice hockey with my son. CORMAC: Daddy's home! Yay! WINEGARNER: Hey, buddy. CORMAC: Hi! WINEGARNER: How's it going? You guys ready for hockey tonight? REESE: Yeah! WINEGARNER: Yeah? MORGAN: Are you ready? WINEGARNER: Yeah? Cormac, can you help me with any of these? I need some help, big guy. REESE: I'll drive. MORGAN: Reese wants to drive. (laughter) WINEGARNER: We started Cormac out when he was — how old were you when you first started skating? CORMAC: Two. WINEGARNER: Two. I think we got him on his first set of skates pretty quickly after he learned how to walk, but now how old are you? CORMAC: Four. WINEGARNER: He's four, and that's kind of when kids can start skating with a group and doing actual hockey stuff. Good. Coming around. All the way around. And when you get it, take a shot. Oh my goodness, you shot all the way down the ice! Holy cow! I guess I started skating when I was five, and growing up in Alaska it was kind of the thing to do. And I've continued to play, even as a doctor. Some of the guys that came out today are guys that I've met with my unit that also play hockey, and it continues to be a big part of my life and something that's really important to me. It's a misconception if people think that being an Army doctor is going to be too busy to have a life outside of work. As this guy can attest, there's times where it's busy and there's times where it's hard to make it happen, but for the most part it's part of the lifestyle of being an Army doctor that you get time with your family.


Generally, every service member will be afforded housing while living on a military installation. While living on base, housing is determined by rank, location and family situation, with new recruits typically starting their military career in a shared bedroom and bathroom facility called barracks. As service members move up in rank, they are offered higher quality housing options, if available, that range from modern college style dormitories to apartments and single-family homes.

Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH)

Service members who choose to live off base are given a nontaxable BAH as part of their compensation. This consists of a monthly sum that is calculated using the area’s cost of living, the service member's pay grade and number of dependents (if any). Ultimately, BAH is in place to make sure all service members get the support they need to cover their living situation.

On-Base Family Housing

Hear a young Army couple share their living on-base experience.

On-Base Family Housing

Hear a young Army couple share their living on-base experience.

ACHINA WILLIAMS: My name is Tachina Williams and I’m a specialist in the U.S. Army.

DANTE WILLIAMS: My name is Dante Williams and I am also a specialist in the U.S. Army.

TACHINA: We’ve been together for almost seven years, and we’ve been here for about three years now. There are plenty of housing options on base for families. We got the option of choosing between three different communities. We chose to stay in Liberty Woods here in Fort Stewart.

TACHINA: We currently live in a four bedroom town home. It has a living room, and a kitchen area and a dining area. Upstairs we have four bedrooms, with our kids' rooms, our master bedroom, the guest bedroom and Dante's man cave. So, we have quite a bit of space so that we can just be comfortable in.

DANTE: Living on base is important to me because I can get to work in, like, five minutes. The commissary is right there, so everything that we need is here on base.

TACHINA: Quite often we have barbecues, or we grill out, and we either do it at the neighbors' house or our house. And they just bring their kids over and their families over and we just, you know, relax and watch the game and eat some barbecue.

DANTE: The things that I enjoy for the kids: There's a playground at every spot. We can go to either the one down the street or take them to the one around the corner, and so there's a variety of things that the kids can do.

TACHINA: My kids are really happy here. They love playing in the backyard, and every time they see somebody out the window, they're like, "Mommy, my friend's playing outside!"

TACHINA: When I see my children happy, it makes me happy.

Food + Dining

On base, you can expect to find a variety of dining options for service members and their families, from cafeteria-style dining facilities to the name brand restaurants seen in any city or town across the country. Some bases may even offer food delivery services and/or food trucks that rotate throughout the week.

Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS)

BAS is a military program that offsets meal costs for officers and enlisted service members. It is a monetary, nontaxable monthly allowance provided as part of a physician’s military benefits and compensation that can be traced back to the early beginnings of the Military, during which room and board and rations were included as part of payment. Please note that the BAS is not intended to offset the costs of meals for family members.


Military bases resemble large towns with their own dedicated fire departments and postal facilities. They also offer shopping centers, grocery stores, entertainment, and more. These essential amenities are referred to by different names but as you’ll see, they’re similar to their civilian counterparts (and can be cheaper, too).

Exchange and Commissary

The Exchange is a large retail shopping location that resembles a contemporary mall or department store where service members and their families can enjoy discounts on an incredible variety of household goods. Exchange products include electronics, clothing, furniture, housewares, recreational gear, jewelry, and overseas automobile sales, just to name a few.

The Commissary is the base grocery store, complete with produce, boxed goods, butcher, seafood and numerous brand name food items that one would expect to find in any supermarket located off base.

Both locations offer products at a discount and with the convenience of being right down the road from where service members live and work on base.

On Base Recreation and Entertainment

Service members and their families living on and off base have access to a wide selection of no cost recreation and entertainment services, including gyms (multiple per base in some cases), recreation fields, movie theaters, bowling alleys, running tracks and parks. Additionally, an organization called Armed Forces Entertainment hosts exclusive shows on bases every year featuring well-known musicians, comedians, athletes and actors.

Life on Base - Overview

Hear from service members all about the on-base facilities the Military offers.

Life on Base - Overview

Hear from service members all about the on-base facilities the Military offers.

MARTIN: There's a wide variety of things that are offered just on-base that Airmen, once they become part of the Air Force, that they can tap into. There's a health and wellness center, all the services are free and set up like a typical commercial gym, it's nothing out of your pocket. Once you join the Air Force, you have all these sports you can still play. The camaraderie, these guys that play out here, with playing soccer, it's the same guys that I'm going to be going out and getting deployed with as well. HIEN: A commissary is a grocery store on base. You get everything you could get at any local grocery store. The fruits and vegetables are very fresh, organic groceries so I'm a big fan of that. HELM: Base exchange, we are your department store, your electronics store, your clothing store, all your shopping needs you can accomplish at your local exchange on base. SCOTT: This is the school age program, we offer before- and after-school care to children ages 5 to 12 years old, kindergarten through sixth grade. We give the parents peace of mind so that they can go and do their job and do their job well. DENTON: In the Air Force, our facilities have family healthcare, pharmacy, laboratory, radiology, physical therapy, mental health, and they get the care they need at no-cost. HOPPER: We rent out ski boats, pontoon boats. AIGEN: bikes, to kayaks to fishing, anything you want to do outdoor-wise, we've got it. NARRATOR: You have these services offered worldwide. Wherever we deploy people, we have the facility there to take care of them. Can you believe I'm on an Air Force Base?

Vacation + Travel

Even though you will be busy, you will still have leisure time as a military physician. Plus, you’ll have access to travel opportunities and discounts that make it easy and affordable to explore the world or your own backyard.

Travel Opportunities

A program called Space-Available Travel allows you and your family to fly for free if there is room on military flights and when air transport eligibility criteria is met. To participate, service members register and wait for an unused seat to the destination of their choice. While it’s not always something you’ll have to depend on for trips, this travel method can be a great way to plan an inexpensive vacation or to travel home while you’re on leave.

Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR)

The MWR exists to give service members and their families a wide range of choices that can help everyone stay active and engaged while living on base. These can include:

  • Alpine skiing
  • Arts and crafts
  • Barbecues
  • Bike trails
  • Boat rentals
  • Bowling tournaments
  • Cabins
  • Coffee shops
  • Hunting areas
  • Libraries
  • Marinas
  • Organized sports teams
  • Paintball fields
  • Picnic sites
  • Whitewater rafting

Each Service branch has an MWR office dedicated to helping personnel connect with vacation and leisure opportunities. You can learn more by visiting each program’s site:

Army MWR

Navy MWR

Air Force MWR

Additional Discounts

To recognize and support those who serve, many companies offer special military discounts, including for airfare and other vacation or travel-related activities. While these perks are not offered as an official extension of Department of Defense benefits, they are common and found throughout the country.

Support for Family Members

The Military wants to set its service members up to succeed and provide them a stable environment and that extends to their family’s well-being too. This is because strong communities—on base and off—are as important to a service member’s career as any training or certification.

Quality of Life

Today, approximately 51.5% of active-duty service members are married, and 37.3% have children. There are several support programs in place to help strengthen the quality of life for these families, including: