The benefits of being at a small base

Service member holding model house
Service member holding model house

The benefits of being at a small base

by Stacy Roman
Stripes Japan

In my husband’s 19-year active duty career, we’ve been stationed at many different bases — all of which are pretty decent size. We’ve lived in exotic locales such as Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii, Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana (okay, the last one might not be considered exotic) and more. However, when we received orders to a small base in rural England, we weren’t quite sure what to expect. Was there a commissary, or more importantly, a Class Six? The answers are yes to the first question, sort of to the latter. After living here for almost three years, I can unequivocally tell you there are some great (a few not-so-great) benefits to being stationed at a small base.

  1. Immersion into local culture. On smaller installations, on-base housing is often limited or non-existent. Which means you’ll likely end up off base in the surrounding area. We’ve been lucky to experience both, but I have to say it’s definitely been more fun to be mixed in with the local neighborhoods. We can walk to the village pub and get to know the fascinating (and sometimes colorful) history of where we reside.
  2. You are part of an incredibly tight-knit community. When the entire population of your base is less than 1,500, you get to know people very quickly. Which can be a good thing if you find yourself running behind and need help with child pick up, or if you happen to end up in isolation due to an ongoing pandemic. Small communities know how to rally together and support each other. However, on the flip side, you get to know everything about everyone — and vice versa. Rumor mills can be a little more rampant.
  3. You won’t get lost. My husband actually visited our current base on a TDY from our old base. Because I am sorely lacking when it comes to navigation skills and will inevitably end up lost, he laughed out loud when I asked how big it was. Let’s just say our 5K running trail is literally the perimeter of the installation. It’s been wonderful to get anywhere I need to go without accidentally ending up on a flight line (which would be worrisome since there is no active flight line here).
  4. You learn to appreciate the little things. One of the biggest pieces of advice I was given before moving here was, “If you see it at the Troop Store, get it.” Things you may rely on, are stocked with less frequency. So, when one of my favorite brands of beer magically shows up, I hope my trunk space isn’t cluttered.
  5. You also learn to appreciate the bigger bases nearby. We absolutely love our local shops and restaurants. But sometimes you just get a hankering for a seriously bad-for-you, dripping with rubbery cheese quesarito from Taco Bell. Our nearest one? An hour east of us at RAF Lakenheath. Needless to say, we tend to make the most of those trips. If we need something and we know our BX doesn’t have it or just need a piece of little America, we head over to the bigger base.

Of all the places we’ve been, being stationed in our tiny little corner of the U.K. has been one of my favorites. Coming from the behemoth of Ramstein Air Base, it was a bit of a shock, but refreshingly welcome, nonetheless.

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