After my husband and I got engaged, the discussion shifted from when we were going to get married to where we were going to live after we got married. Thanks to his commitment to the US Army, he couldn’t move to Kentucky (unless he were to somehow get stationed at Fort Campbell but because of the “82nd black hole” that wasn’t going to happen anytime soon) which only left the option of me moving down there. I didn’t mind of course, I had intended to live down here before we met anyway, so then it became a discussion of on post or off post.
This is a question I’ve had a lot of people who are moving to Bragg ask as well and I wish I had a better answer for them. Really what it all comes down to is preference. There are pros and cons of each and the only way to determine which is for you (without trying them both out) is to take a look at what both have to offer and see what works best for you and your family. In this blog, I’m going to go over the good and the bad and hopefully answer any questions someone might have. I’ll try and keep my points general so that they can be applied to any duty station.
Living On Post
When you live on post, housing works almost exactly like an apartment complex. Generally, the places you can live are broken up into neighborhoods. In those neighborhoods there might be single family homes and there might be duplexes. There might also be more apartment style housing. There is one housing building that acts like a main office for the neighborhood. All complains and questions can be directed there. Generally, there’s clubhouse like area there with a pool, game room and gym that’s accessible by residents of the neighborhood only.
The benefits to living on post: all your rent and basic utilities are paid for. Well, that’s putting it simply. The enlisted service member in the family gets Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) and when you live on post, all of that goes towards rent and utilities (not including cable). It goes into his/her paycheck and comes right back out automatically. You never see the money, but you live for free. For the most part. If your electric bill exceeds a certain amount (usually determined by taking an average of how much electric the entire street is using) you have to pay whatever is over that amount. But adversely, if you are under that amount you get money credited back to you. Since living here we’ve gotten one heating bill (not sure where the others went) and we were $15 dollars under the average, so we got that money back.
Another bonus to living on post is that you’re generally in pretty close proximity to a Commissary or PX. Now, there’s nothing stating you have to shop at this places if you’re in the military (and living on or off post), but they do have their perks. Either way, being close to anywhere you buy groceries is nice, whether it’s a Commissary or not. Not only are the Commissary and PX usually pretty close, but just about anything else you’d visit on post is as well. My neighborhood is within five miles of the Comissary and PX, the library and a gym. We’re super close to my husband’s company and my recruiter’s office.
Being so close to my husband’s work is why he likes living on post, but he’s used to being in the barracks where he could literally walk to work every day. A lot of guys I know don’t like being so close to work and that’s why they prefer living off post. Probably one of the biggest draws to living off post is having the very definite distinction between “home” and “work”.
Living Off Post
Now, when you live off post you can live anywhere you want so long as your service member doesn’t mind whatever drive they have in the morning back on post for work. I know people who literally live right outside the gates and I know people who live 30 or more minutes away. Off post living gives you more options as to where you can live. You can do an apartment, a duplex, a house or even just rent a room inside a larger house. This last option is ideal for those service members who are single and have the option of not living in the barracks. I know guys who go in a rent a house together just like friends would do in college.
The way your BAH works when you live off post is that the allotted amount (which changes depending on your rank and how many dependents you have) is deposited into the service members account every time they get paid. You are responsible for using that money to pay for rent and utilities. If your bills are less than your BAH, you pocket that extra money. This is the number one reason people live off post. When you’re on, you see none of it (unless your utilities are less than the average but even then you never see much). If you do you research, you can bank a hundred dollars (or more) a month.
Living off post gives you the ability to live like a normal civilian family. You’re not forced to live by the rules of post (whatever those rules might be) and you’re able to distance your service members work life from your home life more easily. It also affords you the opportunity to make civilian friends. That may or may not be important to you, but I find having those kinds of friends helps keep the world in check a little. You’re better able to escape the military troubles when you’re with someone who has no idea what those troubles even are.
I’ve never lived off post while being part of this military family, I did live in Fayetteville before getting married (even if it wasn’t for that long). I liked it well enough and wouldn’t mind doing it again, but when we looked at our options it just made sense for us to do on post housing at the time. Daniel’s currently recovering from ankle surgery that has essentially forced him to stop jumping, which means that if i wants to stay in when his contract is up he’s going to have to pick a new job and only the Army knows where that job will send us.
While breaking any contract we signed because he got new orders wouldn’t have been an issue, it was just a headache we’d rather avoid. Though, to get on post housing he had to have at least a year left in his contract (which he had a year and a month). He doesn’t have to stay here for a year, but he couldn’t have gotten housing if he were getting out of the Army in the next eleven months.
So, all-in-all, no one can really tell you which is better in the “on post VS. off post” debate. Everyone has their own opinion of the lifestyle and neither is wrong. It really does all come down to personal preference. It also all depends on which duty station you’re moving onto. To determine which is best for you, I suggest reaching out to people who already live in the area and see what they have to say. Join all the Facebook groups you can that are geared towards that specific duty station and ask away. Those already living there will have insight that no one else can give you that might help sway your decision.
Above all else though, never be afraid to ask any question, no matter how stupid it sounds to you. Chances are you’re not the first to ask it and if you are it’s only because someone else hasn’t gotten up the gall to ask it themselves.
What are your thoughts in the on post VS. off post discussion?
EDIT;; It was brought to my attention by a fellow Army wife that there is at least one restriction to living off post. Well, there is here at Bragg. Apparently, there are stone black listed locations where you can’t live for whatever reason. I suppose you could probably find a way around that if you really wanted to, but the way I look at it is it’s black listed for a reason. Stay away.