Chances are you have heard of morale, welfare and recreation, which provides quality of life programming for the military community. But you may not be aware of the breadth and depth of its offerings. From fitness and sports to tickets and travel, MWR has something to engage your service member during their free time.
What is morale, welfare and recreation?
Being mission-ready requires having downtime to relax, recharge and have fun. That’s why the U.S. military has long offered services to lift morale among service members. In the late 1800s, installations housed retail and social outlets known as Canteen Associations. Over time, offerings grew to include restaurants, libraries and gymnasiums.
Today, MWR offers nearly 5,000 leisure and support programs for service members, their families and other eligible personnel. These free or low-cost recreational opportunities include recreation programs, youth activities, golf and bowling.
Your service member has access to MWR offerings, whether they are living on an installation or off. Look up the MWR program at your service member’s installation for an overview of offerings.
Who can use MWR services and programs?
The following individuals have full access to MWR services and programs:
- Active-duty service members and their families
- Members of the National Guard and reserves and their families
- Service academy and Merchant Marine cadets
- Retired service members and their families
- Honorably discharged veterans with a 100% service-connected disability
- Medal of Honor recipients
- Surviving family members of uniformed service members or retirees until they age out of eligibility or their dependent status associated with the deceased member or retiree changes
Department of Defense and Coast Guard civilians employees (both appropriated fund and nonappropriated fund) now have access to in-store and online shopping at military service exchanges.
MWR programs and services
Depending on where your service member is stationed, services and activities may include:
- Bowling lanes, golf courses, boating, horseback riding, scuba diving, flying
- Classes in auto repair, woodworking, painting, photography, music
- Equipment rental for camping, canoeing, fishing, hunting, skiing
- Special programming for single service members ages 18 to 25, including trips, concerts and tours
- Fitness, aquatics and sports programs – and if your service member isn’t near an installation, more than 3,000 YMCAs and private fitness facilities offer military memberships
- Campground sites (and the Best Kept Secrets guide to those sites) that include recreational vehicle pads, pop-up camper sites, tents, cabins, hotels or yurts available to service members and their families
- Recreational lodging and Armed Forces Recreation Centers resorts
MWR outings and vacations
Your service member’s military ID is a pass to a range of free and low-cost adventures.
- Information, Tickets and Travel. This office helps with vacation planning, offers discounted vacation packages and provides low-price tickets to sporting events, concerts and attractions. The online version of ITT is American Forces TravelSM, where you can purchase discounted flight tickets, book hotel rooms, rent cars and purchase low-price vacation packages.
- Military lodging. This includes both recreational lodging (such as Armed Forces Recreation Centers resorts) and official PCS/temporary duty lodging (on a space available basis). This program is available to help your service member save money while on vacation.
- America the Beautiful Pass. Active duty, National Guard and reservists are eligible for a free annual pass to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites, including national parks. (Note: The passes are not issued by MWR organizations, you must obtain the pass from the National Park Service).
- Blue Star Museums. Admission to museums across the country is free for service members and their families between Armed Forces Day in May and Labor Day in September. Blue Star Museums is a collaboration among the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense, and museums across America offering free admission to the nation’s active-duty military personnel and their families, including National Guard and reserve.
The MWR Digital Library
Your service member will find a treasure trove of free resources through the MWR Digital Library. In addition to eBooks, audiobooks and magazines, they will find the following and much more:
- Ancestry Library unlocks the story of your family through billions of U.S. and international records.
- Kanopy offers a streaming service with more than 30,000 award-winning films and documentaries.
- Mango Languages provides a language-learning program for more than 70 different foreign languages.
- Universal Class offers lifelong learning courses across more than 30 subject areas.
- ArtistWorks Music Lessons provides access to hundreds of video lessons for a range of musical instruments.
The library is packed with offerings for children and teenagers as well, including:
- Tutor.com, which gives kids free access to online tutoring and homework help from expert tutors across more than 100 subjects.
- ScienceFlix, which offers more than 50 complete units of study with hands-on science projects, videos and interactive features.
- National Geographic offers issues dating to 1888. National Geographic Kids and National Geographic: People, Animals, World offers textbooks, videos, maps and images.
Encourage your service member to visit the MWR Digital Library and browse its extensive offerings.
Your service member works hard and deserves convenient and affordable ways to relax and have fun while off duty. MWR works to meet the needs and interests of the military community with its wide variety of programs and services. Have your service member check out their local MWR services and programs to make the most of their military life.