When you join the Army, you get to put down your top three “dream stations” for their consideration. Most of the time, your first duty station won’t be on that list. However, as you advance through your Army career, you might have more of a say in where you get located.
Many service members see the military as an opportunity for travel, and might be interested in Germany or Italy installations. But if you’re looking to stay close to home, here are the top 10 Army stations in the U.S.:
10. Fort Riley – Kansas
Named after Maj. Gen. Bennet C. Riley, Fort Riley was established in 1853 to protect Western migration and trade. It has a daytime population of 25,000, and is best known for hosting the 1st Infantry Division (the Fighting First!)
With its North Central Kansas location, you can expect to get a taste of quiet Midwest living. There are five housing communities on post, and Junction City, Ogden and Manhattan are all short commutes from post. The median home cost is $140,000 ($200,000 in Manhattan). For some fun and good eats, visit Aggieville outside KSU in Manhattan.
Winters are frigidly cold with snowfall; summers are typically hot and humid. And, of course, Kansas is right up Tornado Alley.
9. Fort Knox – Kentucky
Fort Knox is on the smaller side, but with plenty of history. Army camps have existed there since the Civil War. It’s the home to Cadet Command, Human Resources Command, the U.S. Bullion Depository and the General George Patton Museum.
Known as the “Gold Standard”, Ft. Knox is located near Radcliff, Elizabethtown and Louisville. Elizabethtown is 15-30 minutes from post, and a two bedroom apartment can cost around $600-$700 a month. On post housing consists of older, but nicely maintained homes. Knox boasts a mini waterpark, putt-putt golf course and bowling alley. It also has four schools with over 1,500 students.
While Kentucky is full of avid hikers and outdoorists, the weather can be unpredictable. It rains hard, with Florida-like flash showers. The winters can be harsh and the summers hot, but with wide temperature ranges. Prepare for anything!
8. Fort Leonard Wood – Missouri
Smack in between St. Louis and Springfield, this Missouri installation is a popular one. Locals refer to it as “Fort Lost In The Woods” because of its location on Old Route 66. The Maneuver Support Center of Excellence, the MP Regiment, CBRN and Army Engineers all reside here.
Fort Leonard Wood trains over 82,000 soldiers and civilians a year, which means they have a healthy housing population. On-post housing is determined by rank and availability, and in high demand. St. Robert, Waynesville and Plato are the towns closest to post, with a median home value of $164,000 or less.
Weather is pretty typical in Missouri, with four distinct seasons: summer, fall, winter, and tornado season. Fort Leonard Wood provides on-post attractions such as gyms, a library, bowling alley, movie theatre, fun center and recreational area.
7. Fort Sam Houston – Texas
A Texas favorite, Fort Sam Houston is one of three main locations of Joint Base San Antonio; the others being Lackland AFB and Randolph AFB. Sam Houston houses the world renowned San Antonio Military Medical Center (SAMMC), which gives it the title “Home of Army Medicine.”
San Antonio is located in South Central Texas, about a three-hour drive from Houston and four hours to Dallas. It’s the seventh most populated city in the U.S., with a median home cost of $172,000 — 14% lower than the national average. The housing community on post is large, and there is an elementary, middle and high school on Sam Houston.
The local scene in San Antonio is lively, with tons of events and holidays. With activities both inside the city and out, it’s a great area to live if you want to stay busy. Expect mild winters and blistering summers, and be on the look-out for flash flooding.
6. Fort Belvoir – Virginia
Just 12 miles south of D.C., Fort Belvoir contains a large and diverse workforce. It is the headquarters for agencies of the Department of Defense, among many others, and is split into three distinct sections: main post, Davison Army Airfield, and the Ft. Belvoir North area.
On Belvoir, you’re going to want to live on post. They house service members from all branches and bases in the area in 15 different villages. Fairfax County, Arlington, Alexandria, Prince Williams County and Loudoun County are all drivable, but commutes and cost of living are among the highest in the country. The median home cost in Fairfax is $561,000.
With three mild seasons and warm summers, the D.C. area is known to be color-rich in autumn and springtime, though by no means is nature the attraction on Belvoir. If you’re career-oriented, it just may be the duty station for you.
5. Fort Lewis – Washington
Fort Lewis was built over a century ago, and has grown into one of the largest military complexes in the world. McChord AFB joined with Ft. Lewis in 2010 to create Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM), one of the most sought-after duty stations for soldiers and airmen alike.
One of the best things about JBLM is the area. It’s a hub for outdoorists, with popular fishing and boating spots, and Mt. Rainier just a hop, skip and a jump away. Washingtonians say their summers are some of the best in the country. JBLM is also about an hour from Seattle; one of the top travel destinations on the west coast.
For those who embrace the Pacific Northwest rain — or those who would rather stay dry — Ft. Lewis features a myriad of indoor and outdoor amenities. On base housing encompasses 21 neighborhoods, and may be preferable to the high cost of living in the Puget Sound region. The median home price is $400,000.
4. Fort Benning – Georgia
Well-known and well-loved, Fort Benning is home to the Maneuver Center of Excellence, with ‘excellence’ being the key word. Most soldiers will spend time training or working there during their careers. After all, life is “Better at Benning.”
Ft. Benning is right next to Columbus, the second largest city in Georgia, with tons of activities and sights to see. Their on-post housing was actually made famous by the movie We Were Soldiers, which was partially filmed there. The median home cost in Columbus is $140,000. Some soldiers choose to live in Ft. Mitchell or Phenix City, AL, where it’s even cheaper, but in a different timezone.
Hunting, fishing and the local food scene are all very popular at Benning. As to the weather, you can probably guess: it’s HOT. Tornado season runs from March through May.
3. Schofield Barracks – Hawaii
Every soldier wants a spot at Schofield Barracks or Fort Shafter. Unfortunately, it’s not super common to get one. Located on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, this station is home to the 25th Infantry Division — the Tropic Lightning Division.
Schofield Barracks is right up against the Waianae mountain range, a few miles from Wahiawa and Mililani, and 17 miles from Honolulu. Living off post could be tricky due to the high home and rent values in Hawaii. Because Oahu is such a small community, highways tend to get congested, and “island fever” can set in after some months of living there.
However, weather is warm year-round with pleasant ocean breezes and incredible hiking and watersports. Visit Honolulu for the restaurant and retail scene; though it’s mainly tourist-driven. North Shore is known for its big-wave surfing, but beware of sweeping storms in the winter.
2. Fort Carson – Colorado
“The Mountain Post,” AKA Fort Carson, is just south of Colorado Springs. It shares the area with three Air Force Bases and the U.S. Air Force Academy. Many military units call Ft. Carson home, most notably the 4th Infantry Division.
On-post housing and amenities provide a comfortable, hometown feel. Soldiers can also choose to live in Monument, Manitou Springs, Widefield-Security, Fountain, or Woodland Park. The median home cost of the area is $330,000, though the property tax rates are very low at 0.63%. Colorado flat taxes all income at 4.63%.
The ultimate outdoor adventurer’s paradise, Ft. Carson is near many ski and snowboarding areas, scenic parks, and hunting and fishing spots. Other activities like ice climbing, snowmobiling, rock climbing and white-water river rafting can all be done here. Additionally, the city of Colorado Springs has a thriving art scene.
Colorado Springs has mild weather, with highs of 43 F in January and 84 F in August. It boasts 243 days of sunshine a year, but comes with 37 inches of snow to match; invest in an all-wheel drive vehicle. Something to get used to: dry air and high altitude.
1. Fort Bragg – North Carolina
Finally, at the top of our list: the historic Fort Bragg. The 82nd Airborne Division, Spec Ops Forces, PsyOps and more reside here. In fact, so do 50,000 active duty soldiers, making it one of the largest Army stations in the world.
Bragg is near the coast of North Carolina in the middle of the state. Several counties live outside post gates, including Cumberland, Harnett, Hoke and Moore. Fayetteville is the biggest city, but has a low median home value of $135,000. The Southern Pines area is a popular suburb, but twice as expensive. Before living on-post, research your housing options and geography; just getting from one side of post to the other can add half an hour to your commute.
A big installation like Bragg comes with conveniences such as multiple commissaries, fitness centers, classes and training programs, and MWR events year-round. It also offers hikers and outdoorists places such as: McKellar’s Lodge, Tank Trail, Mott Lake, Smith Lake, Area J and Flight Line Park.
Weather varies, but is generally mild and good for agriculture. Winter lows are in the 20’s, and summer highs can reach the 100’s. Prepare for the sticky humidity of East Coast living.