For much of my husband’s Army career we opted to stay in government quarters because of the family friendly environment it provided for our kids to grow up in and also because it was less expensive.
We loved not having to pay heating or electric bills and if anything broke, we just put in a work order and someone came out to fix it. Post housing was convenient, safe and a great place to raise kids.
The drawbacks? Housing was a crapshoot. Each time we moved we never knew what kind of house we would be getting, if our furniture would fit, and how long the wait would be.
Here’s a rundown of our housing experiences:
Schofield Barracks, Hawaii-
This was my first experience with military housing so I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that my husband and I qualified for a two bedroom living arrangement since we had one child. However, if I arrived and was pregnant we qualified for a three bedroom set of quarters. Game on!
We arrived in Honolulu and I couldn’t wait to see our cute three-bedroom Hawaiian bungalow. Boy was I disappointed. My husband had not warned me that Army housing stinks so it was pretty shocking to me to drive up and find that my island house was actually a duplex constructed completely out of cinder blocks. We were one of 12 families squished into a tiny U shaped complex.
The good: We had a beautiful lanai and backyard along with a palm tree in our front patch of grass. Our house was surrounded by beautiful, sweet smelling plumeria trees. The constant Hawaiian breeze filled our house with this glorious scent. Year-round beautiful weather allowed us to escape the cinderblock house and spend long amounts of time outside.
The bad: I felt like I was living back in the dormitory again with the cinderblock walls and tiled cement flooring! It was very difficult to decorate as we couldn’t nail anything into our walls. Our house didn’t have heating or air which wasn’t a big problem most of the time because it was so temperate, but sometimes it did get a little uncomfortable.
True story: The biggest problem with this house was that it was overrun with geckos. This might not have been a big problem for most people, but I am terrified of these little lizards. Did you know that sometimes they jump on you?? They laid eggs in our curtains and we had babies running around. Ick!!
Ft. Belvoir, Virginia-
We were excited to learn that our next move was to Virginia, my home state. My husband and I were hopeful to get some nicer quarters now that we had three children! This move was made slightly more difficult by the fact that we were traveling with a two year old, a one year old and a three-month-old baby. Our wait for this house was six weeks.
When we were given the address to our new house, we drove over full of anticipation and high hopes. We were delighted to find a red brick duplex situated on a large corner lot. And…it was right next to the playground. Score!
The good: We liked this house because it looked and felt like a “real” house. It was still small, but had more room than our Hawaiian villa. The bedrooms were a good size, the family room was large, and it had an eat-in kitchen. Of course, the best thing was the huge yard and busy playground.
The bad: This house only had ONE bathroom!! What??? Who thought this was a good idea? One bathroom made it very difficult when it came time to potty train the kids or when more than one person needed to use the facilities.
True story: I’m not going to lie; I used the kids’ potty-chair a few times when things got desperate.
Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas-
After four years of living in a house with one bathroom we were ready to move on. We now had four children and had heard via the rumor mill that Leavenworth had excellent housing for large families.
After a lot of driving, we arrived in Kansas, checked in and found out that we finally won the housing lottery. We had been assigned to Infantry Barracks, the largest quarters available with over 2,000 square feet and a huge basement area for storage. Infantry Barracks is renovated barracks that were built over 100 years ago. Eight families live in each set of barracks; four upstairs and four downstairs.
The good: This place was huge! We had a sunroom and a dining room and a living room and TWO bathrooms and four bedrooms and more. The rooms with their 14-foot ceilings were delightfully spacious. My children used to zoom through the house on their scooters since it was so roomy. There were tons of playmates for everyone since most families had 4+ children.
The bad: Sharing one extra large house with so many families was not always easy. The walls were thin and people were kind of in your business a bit more than usual. Carrying groceries in was a pain as was worrying about my youngest falling down the steep steps. We all shared a community lawn, which a lot of people hated. My husband and I don’t like yard work so this wasn’t a big detractor for us.
True story: One night there was a huge gas leak at Infantry Barracks and the military police banged on all of our doors forcing us to evacuate. Hundreds of us marched down the road at 3 in the morning to the local hospital to take shelter until it was fixed. My children will never forgive me for putting on my makeup before leaving.
Ft. Drum, New York-
I can’t say that I was too excited about moving to the Great White North. Ft. Drum is located thirty miles south of Canada where it is cold and snowy for too many months of the year. In fact, we arrived on Mother’s Day and it was snowing. Houses at Drum come standard with a snow blower if that’s any indication of what the weather is like!
Luckily, we didn’t have to wait at all for housing. We were traveling with four kids, two cats and one dog and my husband was leaving on a deployment within weeks so I was pretty anxious to get settled in. Our house here was a ranch style duplex and our first set of quarters ever to have a garage.
The good- We didn’t have to pay our heating bill. My daughters and I could crank the temperature up as high as we liked in the winter without any financial repercussions. Our neighborhood was amazing. The girls loved roaming around and playing outside with the other kids. Most of the soldiers were deployed on and off again during the three years we lived here so we heavily relied upon one another. We ate together, played together, and traveled together.
The bad- Our house was tiny. We had 1,200 square feet for six of us. It felt especially cramped after coming from our giant Infantry Barracks home in Kansas. Part of the move included getting rid of some of our furniture so we could fit into our cozy little shoebox house. I did not enjoy the shoveling portion of living at Ft. Drum.
True story: Our house was so small that we turned our storage closet into a playroom for our youngest daughter. She told everyone she met that she lived in a closet.
We now live in a real house that we own. It has lots of bathrooms and we don’t share a common wall with another family. Sometimes I miss this when I get scared at night. I also miss not being able to crank the heat up as high as I want.