When you live on post or base, you have easy access to so many different amenities to keep you connected to the military lifestyle. If you live off post or off base, you are a little further removed from the military experience. Some people love this, yet others, while enjoy living off, want to stay connected to their military installations. The good news is that there are many ways to get connected and stay connected to your duty station.
Attend groups or meetings
There are quite a few regular groups and meetings going on at a military installation. You can join the spouse club or go to a Bible study such as PWOC or CWOC, find a playgroup through the YMCA, or attend a MOPS group. Some bases have activity groups for hiking, bowling, knitting, or wine tasting! When you go to these groups or meetings, you are staying connected not only to the military base, but also to the people who attend.
Go to the gym
Every base has a nice Fitness Center for the service members to use. At most locations, some or all of the gym is open to family members too. They may offer group fitness classes, special events like Marathon Training or a Fun Run, a child play area, or personal trainers. Check if there is an outdoor track or a swimming pool too! While the hours for dependents may be limited to specific times of the day, using the base gym is a great way to find a fellow milspouse workout buddy. And you’ll save money on a gym membership too!
Most military installations should have quite a few playgrounds and parks to take your kids to. These are usually located in the base housing neighborhoods. Go explore and visit new ones. Take your kids often, and soon some will become their favorites. Then you can always go back to those playgrounds and connect to the post or base in a real and tangible way. Playgrounds are also a nice way to meet other parents and find friends for your kids.
Join sports teams
If your kids like to play sports, sign them up for one on base. This is a easy way to connect with others living there and have the chance to enjoy a team sport in a military family setting. If your child is not into sports, you can look for music, art, or dance opportunities. Don’t have kids? Many bases have adult teams for kickball, baseball, softball, or ultimate frisbee. If you aren’t athletic, you can also volunteer with a team to become more involved and connected.
Shop at the Commissary or Exchange
While there are probably plenty of local options to get your groceries and household products, shopping at your duty station will help with staying connected to the installation. Not only are you more likely to see fellow military families in the store, but shopping at the Commissary can typically save you money. You can often find good deals at the Exchange, and there is zero tax shopping at the Exchange, so this can save you a lot of money on big-ticket items.
Attend FRG meetings and Unit events
FRG meetings can be the perfect way to get to know other spouses in your service member’s unit or Company. These are the spouses that will be going through what you will be too, whether that is a deployment or another type of training. Whether you live on base or off base, you will be invited to participate in spouse or family events related to your service member’s job. Some of these events are official meetings or briefings about upcoming training. Other times, they will be social activities like a Bunco night, charity auction, or Spouses Night Out. Going to Unit events will allow you to get to know more about what your spouse does and the people they work with.
Make friends with people who live on post
If you can make friends with people who live on base, you will probably be invited to their homes. This can be a way to feel more connected. At times, it is refreshing to be surrounded by fellow military spouses who understand the lifestyle and don’t ask frustrating questions. You can get together with other spouses, get to know the neighborhoods, and figure out more about the installation as a whole. Ask them what resources they are using to solve current challenges, and you may learn some tips to make military life a little easer!
Sometimes you just need to drive to the base and explore. See if there are any museums or places to check out that might be interesting. Driving around is the perfect way to figure out where things are and feel more apart of the base. Sure, you may get a little lost, but everyone usually makes a few wrong turns when they first visit a military base! The more you explore, the more buildings and resources you will discover, which will make it easier to find a particular place in the future. If your base is small enough to do so, you can take a walk to see things on foot.
Go to base events
From Easter egg hunts to a Fourth of July concert, your military installation has different events going on throughout the year. Try to attend those and see how your current duty station celebrates. Check in with the MWR office, the USO, or the Family Center to discover all the activities that appeal to you. Typically these events are free and open to all military families. This is a great way to connect with your military community and feel a bit closer to the people that are also stationed there.
Feeling connected to where you are stationed can make your experience at your duty station even better. Whether you are new to the installation or have been there for a while, getting out there and trying to get to know the area is a must. You don’t have to feel disconnected just because you don’t live on base.
Julie Provost is a freelance blogger with over 20,000 page views a month on her blog Soldier’s Wife, Crazy Life. She enjoys life in Tennessee with her husband, a National Guard soldier and their three boys. Julie enjoys blogging, reading, photography and a good cup of coffee. You can follow her on Twitter @SoldiersWifeCL.