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Housing for Your New Service Member: Living in the Barracks

Service members playing a game of pool

During basic training and initial job training, all enlisted service members are required to live in the barracks. When service members move to their permanent duty station, only single members are required to live in unaccompanied housing, or barracks.

Living in the barracks is also dependent on your loved one’s rank as well as the availability of space on each base.

Every service branch differs on what rank is required to live in unaccompanied housing:

  • Army and Marine Corps require single service members with paygrades E-5 and below to live in the barracks.
  • Navy requires single service members with paygrades E-4 and below to live in the barracks.
  • Air Force requires single service members with paygrades E-4 and below and with less than three years of service to live in the barracks, or dorms as they like to call them.

The Relocation Assistance Program or housing office can help single service members not required to live on base sort through their options. If your service member has dependents, each installation has a housing office where service members can find out what housing options are available to them and their families.

As your service member climbs the ranks, their living situation will change over time. After living in the barracks, they will have the option to live in military housing on base, military communities off base or choose to make their own living arrangements off base.

A closer look inside barracks and dorms

While you may feel a little out of touch with their military life, your service member can share with you their experiences of living on an installation and in barracks for the first time. Here are some things you can expect for your service member while living in the barracks:

Depending on the base, your service member may have to share a bedroom. Typically, it is large enough to fit two twin-size beds, two desks and two closets. There are cases when a bedroom may hold more than two people. Sometimes, a service member will have a single bedroom and share a common area with another member.

Whether your service member has a single room or shares with others, they will typically share a bathroom in the barracks. At times there may be an en suite bathroom or a community bathroom that is shared by a floor of service members. In some cases, the Air Force dorms will have private bathrooms for airmen.

After your loved one finishes training and moves to their first PDS, they are typically free to have visitors. You can explore the base with your service member and in most cases, you can visit their rooms. While visitors cannot stay the night in the barracks, there are accommodations on base, if you choose, for visiting family members and friends, and your service member can stay the night with you.

Mail does not go directly to service members. All mail is received and controlled by personnel in the mailroom. Some bases have mailrooms located in the barracks, and others have a mailroom located in a separate building. Typically, service members can access letters anytime, but packages are only available for pickup during business hours.

When your service member lives on base, they will not receive a housing or food allowance. Instead, members only receive base pay and use their ID cards to eat for free in the dining facility on base.

Service members have their rooms checked for cleanliness at least once a week. They are also checked for unauthorized items such as candles and certain chemicals that may be considered hazardous. Rooms are expected to meet a certain standard during each check.

In barracks living, there are many events for your service member to attend. Of course, there are holiday events as well as movie and game nights to get them out of their rooms.

Each installation offers service members a wide range of recreation, sporting and fitness, arts and crafts, entertainment offerings and more through the Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs. Some installations even offer auto and other classes.

While there are high expectations for cleanliness and some restrictions, barracks living can be similar to apartment or dorm living, allowing service members quiet space to decompress, hang out with others, play video games and more.

To learn more about your service member’s new installation and the housing accommodations, go to MilitaryINSTALLATIONS and click on your service member’s installation.

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