Adventures in Military Housing

Military housing in Kansas…we never lived here.

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:

Our Hawaii house had jalousie windows and torn screens which did nothing to keep the geckos out. 

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!!

This is what our Belvoir house looked like.

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.

Infantry Barracks housing, Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas

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.

Shoveling! My husband deployed three times in the three years we lived here so typically I got to do this.

Shoveling! My husband deployed three times in the three years we lived at Ft. Drum so typically I got to do this.

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.

 

Today…

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.

 

27 thoughts on “Adventures in Military Housing

  1. You are so right, housing is totally a hit or miss when you move. The good thing is now most companies are using the internet for pictures and (depending on where you are) are allowing you to view more than one. We are at Shafter now and both Schoffield and Shafter have brand new housing! Definitely makes the transition easier! (Also – it looks like we are crossing paths – I am from the NOVA area – right around Belvoir)!

    • Yes, it seems like now that housing is being privatized, there are more options. We quit living on post right as that was beginning. I love Ft. Shafter. It’s a beautiful post. Have fun! 🙂

  2. I loved your intro with picture – we have never lived here! 🙂 From then on I was in for the rest of the post. Thanks for sharing your housing journey with us. I like that you had positives and negatives and the true story was always interesting and funny! As usual a great post. Sounds like you have done the ‘hard yakka’ and now have the fruits of your labour in a house that you do not have to move from and that is finally home.

    • Overall we really enjoyed moving quite a bit and sometimes still get the itch! It was fun seeing new places. The part I hated most was the chaos of moving in. I really dislike clutter so once we were settled, I was good to go! 🙂

  3. Wow! I cannot imagine moving that often. It sounds like each place was very different from the other. You definitely have to be adaptable for that. I’m sure it was a great feeling to own your own house!

    • It’s nice having our own place, but sometimes I miss moving. There were some nice things about reorganizing everything and meeting new people every few years. Staying in one place has been really good for the kids, though. 🙂

      • I bet it has been good for the kids. I have to admit that more than once I’ve looked around the house (and at all the things we have kept or haven’t changed) and thought, “I did not think I would be looking at this for the rest of my life!” I think the only thing that will make me reorganize is a move!

  4. Wow! What a journey you all had! Each home with its own personality and challenges. You win the Mother of The Years Award for having endured all of that with little children and a husband who could not always be there. I enjoyed this post and your funny comments very much. 🙂

    • It definitely wasn’t for everyone. Early on in my husband’s career, those who hated the moving around got out as soon as their time was up. A lot of people very much enjoy having a hometown and I can definitely see the pros to that! 🙂

  5. First, what house has one bathroom nowadays? I couldn’t imagine having one bathroom, given I grew up with only one in my teens. Two bathrooms–a must! Second, that Kansas house looks extraordinary! Love the feel to it. It reminds me of those old colonial homes from the Gone with the Wind days. Finally, Geckos? Ack! I’m terrified of anything slippery or hairy. That includes snakes, lizards, geckos and very large spiders. What an experience knowing eggs lie dormant in the curtains and they’re waiting to hatch. Crazy stuff!

    • One nice thing about Hawaii? No snakes anywhere on the island…they don’t have them. They just have an abundance of other creepy crawlies. Huge centipedes and millipedes. Rats the size of cats. Giant roaches. With no winter to kill anything off, things just keep growing and growing. The rats are a big problem and the Hawaiian government brought in mongoose to try and kill them, but someone didn’t do their research and didn’t realize that rats and mongoose have very different sleeping patterns so they never cross paths. Geckos can be the size of mice so killing them was kind of gross. I still did it whenever I could with my husband’s shoe and then I would leave them for him to clean up. People thought I was mean because most people love geckos; they are supposedly a sign of good luck. Hawaii is a great place to visit, living there is another story!

  6. Great stories. I think military housing in tropical areas is all about the same when it comes to cinder block construction. I was deployed to Guam for 2.5 years and our house was a duplex and cinder block. It was like living in a large dormitory room. And gecko’s would run in and out all the time through the windows. Though we didn’t have the slat windows, but if you had the windows open they would find a way in. 😀

    • Yes, those geckos do find a way. And once they lay there eggs it’s all over. That’s interesting that the Guam housing was similar. Did you have any problems with brown snakes? I’m scared to go to Guam because I’ve heard so much about how the island is overrun by these snakes…scary! Thanks for your comment! 🙂

  7. I was stationed in Barstow, CA for a few years. I imagine your husband has been out to the NTC a time or two so he would know how bleak it is in the southern California desert.
    I remember as my then wife and I came up the pass from San Bernadino, all I could see was sand, rock, and except for the Joshua Trees… flatness.
    I turned to look out the window of our vehicle so my new bride wouldn’t see tears rolling down my cheeks. Really! I was crying because I had brought her out to such a desolate place.

    When we got to base housing, I was mortified. The cinder block and linoleum two-bedroom echoed with every, tiny movement we made. It was quite humble and it seemed so… so not what I wanted for her and us. She, took on her new role and first assignment as Marine wife, perfectly though. She could ‘see’ the few touches it would need to become a home. And she did it, too.

    • Wow, what a story! Your house sounds like it looked a lot like the one I lived in in Hawaii. Pretty grim. Most military wives are able to make the most out of these places and it certainly helps build camaraderie! My husband has been to NTC several times and he did say it was pretty desolate there. Thanks for sharing your story. I really enjoyed reading it! 🙂

  8. Wow. I can’t even imagine moving all over the place like this. Right now, we’re dealing with homes in 2 states and looking to move this summer again! We have a teenager still at home with us. I can’t imagine doing this with 3 small children! No wonder you have migraines…it’s probably leftover from the days when you had to deal with all this! :0

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