While life in the Military is certainly different from civilian life in many respects, service members can expect to get off-duty time to relax with friends, pursue personal interests or hobbies — and discover new ones, too.
Rest & Relaxation Options
Both domestic and international bases offer amenities to full-time residents and traveling personnel. In addition to residential and training facilities, bases sometimes feature pools, basketball and tennis courts, bowling alleys, movie theaters and recreation centers. Service members are sometimes also permitted access to private campgrounds, beaches and other attractions — great for family vacations.
Military bases are often sprawling locations with natural environments ideal for outdoor recreation. This video explores just a few of these areas and how the Military provides equipment, services and organized events for service members and their families to enjoy.Length 1:08 View Transcript
Captain Jo Karge, U.S. Army: Either every weekend or every other weekend, I'm on the water or I'm doing something near the water. At the drop of a hat I can just throw my kayak in the truck and head down there and go be on the water. On post, you can rent kayaks, but you can also rent fishing gear. You can rent boats. If you don't want to buy your own, then it's there to rent.
Jo: My favorite activities here on post would probably be the kayaking and the fishing. I'm just looking for anything that will take my bait. MWR is the morale, welfare, and recreation organization on post. It's primary function is to be uh, morale and welfare of Soldiers and their families. MWR has a lot of tubing trips, white water rafting, kayaking, um, and their trips are always full because people enjoy doing it.
Jo: My love of the outdoors hasn’t changed since being in the Military. If anything, I’d say it’s enhanced it.
Base Exchanges and Commissaries
Service members can purchase many household items, food and clothing at a discount in the base exchange or commissary (a commissary is a military store that sells items to service members at close to cost). About 5 percent of the purchase price is charged for store maintenance and employee wages, but otherwise merchandise is not marked up.
On-base entertainment resources available to service members and their families include gyms, movie theaters, bowling alleys and parks. In addition to facilities, Armed Forces Entertainment hosts hundreds of exclusive entertainment shows around the world each year at 100 military installations, featuring some of the most popular musicians, comedians, athletes and actors.
For service members who enjoy sports, the Military also has its own sports league: Armed Forces Sports. The Armed Forces Sports program includes 25 different sports, ranging from basketball to golf to rugby. The program is open to all active-duty personnel and features nine national championships and 16 international championships.
30 Days of Paid Vacation
As part of their standard employment benefits, active-duty service members receive 30 days of paid vacation each year, compared to the standard two weeks (14 days) for entry-level civilian careers.
For many of those who serve, being a part of something greater than themselves is at the core of their beliefs. This selfless motivation often extends into their off-duty commitments as well. Whether it’s giving back at animal shelters, participating in community cleanup projects, or assisting with charitable events, there’s no shortage of volunteering opportunities for service members and their families in the Military.
Airman First Class Abby Roetzel spends her weekends volunteering at a local animal shelter.Length 3:25 View Transcript
Guevara Cortez: My name is Jose Guevara Cortez and I’m an Air Force staff sergeant, stationed at Joint Base San Antonio. I’m looking to find out what life in the Military is really like, and how it may be different than what you think. Today I’m going to meet up with Airman First Class Abby Roetzel, a pediatric medical technician who aspires to be a veterinarian. Instead of meeting up on base, though, Abby told me to come find her here, at the Animal Defense League, where she volunteers on the weekends. It’s not necessarily what you’d expect to see an Air Force Airman doing, but the Military encourages us to be leaders in our community. And that’s why I can’t wait to check it out.
Guevara Cortez: Hey! Nice to meet you. I’m Jose.
Roetzel: Nice to meet you. I’m Abby. Welcome to the Animal Defense League. Do you want to take a look around?
Guevara Cortez: Yeah, please, please.
Roetzel: All right.
Guevara Cortez: Show me around. Oh, thank you.
Roetzel: You’re welcome.
Guevara Cortez: Appreciate it.
Roetzel: I think all the dogs in here are under at least 15 pounds. There’s tons more in here. This is my favorite. His name’s Deputy.
Guevara Cortez: Deputy?
Guevara Cortez: Deputy, you live in Texas.
Guevara Cortez: How you feel about that, Deputy?
Guevara Cortez: So we’re both in the Military. Would you say there’s any similarities in being in the Military and doing the volunteer work that you do?
Roetzel: I definitely think so. You know, it takes a certain person to join the Military. That’s just something in itself. But someone who is in the Military and volunteers and gives more of their time to people, or animals, I think it really sets yourself above the rest.
Guevara Cortez: So how do you find time to volunteer?
Roetzel: Well, I only work Monday through Friday. And then I have weekends off. And I get really bored really easily. So I occupy my time very carefully. So on Saturdays or Sundays, I’ll come over here and volunteer for a few hours. This is going to be —
Guevara Cortez: Oh, my goodness!
Roetzel: Kitty Phat Camp.
Guevara Cortez: Phat Camp!
Roetzel: This is for kitties that like to eat too much.
Guevara Cortez: Now I see why they call it Kitty Phat Camp.
Roetzel: Yeah. We try and get them to move around here, climb up these little steps, as much as we can. But it’s a struggle.
Guevara Cortez: With your job that you have right now and seeing yourself in the future as a veterinarian, what connections do you see with these two things?
Roetzel: Well, I learn patient care, basically how to handle patients. I learn ... for example, drawing blood on a human is probably a little similar to drawing blood on a dog, because we all have veins. Simple things like that that I think I could transfer over to the veterinary side. It’s kind of like a stepping stone.
Guevara Cortez: Now in your experience, would you say that the Military has helped you become the person that you need to be to succeed in veterinary school?
Roetzel: Without a doubt. In the medical field, I work with a lot of doctors, a lot of providers. They’ve shown me how you need to perform as a leader. I just watch them a lot. And I just take notes on how they act. And I want to be like that when I’m in that position.
Guevara Cortez: So, Abby, what are some of the different things that you actually do when you volunteer here?
Roetzel: So with the dogs, you socialize them. That’s probably the biggest thing for me. When you see the really timid dogs, really scared dogs, that were maybe abused before that don’t really like people, just socialize them, giving them the tools they need to be adopted.
So what was your favorite thing that you saw today?
Guevara Cortez: Without a doubt, Kitty Phat Camp.
Guevara Cortez: Because there’s — I’ve just never heard of anything like that. And I have a cat that is kind of hefty. And she could benefit from some of the exercises or getting some of the food up high.
Guevara Cortez: Cute puppies aside, it’s amazing to see what a difference we can make in the community with a few hours of our free time. Abby definitely proved this to me today, and I’m inspired to get out there and do something myself.