As an enlisted, single military servicemember, you will most likely not have access to government-supported off-base housing. Your military housing options are living in military dormitories/barracks, or choosing to pay for off-base housing out of your base pay salary.
So – what are today’s military barracks really like?
MILITARY DORMS: NOT WHAT THEY USED TO BE
If you’ve seen movies like Private Benjamin, where she was promised country club living and found herself in camp-style barracks, you may have a poor image of military dormitories. The truth is that today, standards of living for single servicemembers in military dormitories have improved quite a lot.
With the exception of training bases and deployment locations, (such as Iraq and Afghanistan) all of the services (except the Marine Corps) are military bases are working toward giving all junior enlisted members their own rooms.
Many bases are upgrading to more modern dormitories, which include two to four bedrooms (one service in each bedroom with a private bath), and a common living room. For example, the Army’s standard is a two-bedroom apartment built for two servicemembers.
PAID OFF-BASE HOUSING FOR ENLISTED OFFICERS
As your rank increases, you can usually choose to move out of the dormitories and off-base at government expense. In this case, you would receive the BAH housing allowance and monthly food allowance (in this case, meals at the chow hall will no longer be free).
The living arrangements vary between services and bases, but in general, E-4 or E-5 officers with over four years of service can expect to move off base and get a living stipend.
Any service member authorized by the military to live off-base at government expense retains their rights even in the case of deployment to a combat zone. The Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act protects against penalties for breaking a lease, and in some cases single servicemembers may terminate their leases and keep the housing allowance during a deployment.
MILITARY DORM INSPECTIONS AND RULES
Inspections are another routine part of military dormitory living. There are also two types of inspections that military dormitory occupants can expect. The first is a periodic inspection; the commander or First Sergeant performs a room inspection to make sure you are following hygienic standards. The second type of inspection is known as "Health and Welfare Inspection," which is unannounced and occurs about 2:00 A.M. These inspections are contraband searches, keeping drugs, knives, guns, etc. out of the dorms.
While some thrive in a dormitory environment, for some it can become stressful. One big disadvantage to living on-base in the dormitories is that regulations are against having overnight guests; military dorms are not co-ed. If your boyfriend or girlfriend will be visiting regularly, living off-base might be a more comfortable option. Using your enlisted pay to cover off base housing might be a stretch, but there is a little support for off-base living: while you won’t receive a military housing allowance or food allowance, you will still get free meals in the chow hall.