Living On A Military Base Doesn't Always Mean 'Safe'

Military Times recently reported on a massive security failure by military officials at several bases, including Fort Detrick, Maryland, which is home to chemical and biological research programs.

In case you’re unsure what this report by the IG means, I’ll sum it up quickly: people who have no business being near this highly classified and sensitive material were given access to the base without background checks and were given access badges even after their lease ended. That said, I’m guessing the chances of them reaching that classified info is still low. Here at Fort Meade, where I drive past signs for the NSA all the time, I know that I STILL can’t get into the NSA.

A little background for those who haven’t been in the military for a while, like me, and those who are civilians: A lot of military housing appears to be handled by private companies. While I hear a lot of complaints about these private companies, such as not fixing leaky roofs, renting out homes with black mold, etc, I heard the same complaints about the military when I served 17 years ago.

These private companies find out how much the rent is in the area, how much your BAH is and then they rent out the homes on the military bases. BAH is a monthly allowance added into a service member’s paycheck to pay for housing based off of how long that person has served in the military. While that seems unfair to civilians that military members get “extra money” to pay for rent, if they looked at the salary of a military member and how long it’s been since they received a fair pay increase to match the civilian market, they’d likely stop complaining about it.

There are several options when it comes to housing, according to the person I spoke to when I was looking to live on base at Fort Meade, MD, where my husband is now stationed: you can allow them to take your entire BAH for a newer home and you may not pay utilities, or you can rent an older home on base, get your BAH and pay a little less, but the house won’t be as updated, nice, etc., and you will definitely have some utility bills.

When I served, it was always: get BAH and live off base and pay rent and utilities, or don’t get BAH and live on base and pay no rent or utilities. Things have changed. We chose to live off base due to A: the amount of homes that had mold issues on base (our son is deathly allergic), B: the quality of education at the schools my children would go to depending on where we lived and C: the tight quarters, constant traffic, no parking or big yards in base housing.

We pay more than the BAH my husband receives between our rent and utilities but our children go to the most amazing schools we’ve ever had thus far. Also, I’m pretty sure in these military-heavy communities, rent increases depending on BAH because our home is nowhere near worth what we’re paying and I’ve moved around a lot and I know rental prices pretty well. Our rent is pretty much our BAH, just a tad more, and we pay utilities out-of-pocket, and I’m sure landlords know that. But that’s the way the free market works so it is what it is. If landlords know the general BAH in the area, you can guarantee that’s what your rent will be.

Here’s what happens on a military base where they cannot “rent” out the homes to enough military personnel and their families: they start looking for renters who are not military so they can fill those homes and make money. That means if you’re military, your neighbor may not be.

Does that matter? Only if you believe in the false sense of security of living on base.

While I’m pretty dang sure the crime rate on a military base is lower than outside the base, that does not mean that your neighbor, military or otherwise, is immediately somebody you should trust with say, your child.

When I first moved to Virginia, thinking my husband would be stationed at Quantico, I immediately looked into housing in that area. What I really appreciated from researching the base housing was this tidbit of info I found on many websites:

Some people may not realize that Quantico is an actual public city within the base. Don’t get a false sense of security living here because the public has access to this area and a commuter train stops here as well; so be on your guard with your children. There are also pedophiles living on Quantico because it is a public city.

This one came specifically from USMC Life.

One thing I love about the Marine Corps is that sex offenders are prohibited from occupying Marine Corps government-owned, leased OR private housing. Hell to the yeah on that one. Sadly, there are actual exemptions to that policy. In any case, I don’t think the other services do that and one spouse commented on the Military Spouse Facebook page that the wife of a soldier was living on base after being paroled following a child porn conviction and rape of a child.

If you know me, you know I don’t believe in child sex offenders being released, but since it happens, I want to remind parents that living on base is not a fail-safe. You are not immune to the No. 1 epidemic health crisis being committed against children: child sex abuse. In fast, more than half of the military members in federal prison are there due to child sex crimes.

That is a very sobering statistic but doesn’t even take into account the amount of spouses and their children who have committed sex crimes against children, or are and haven’t been caught yet. Yes, children are now making up 30 percent of abusers in child sex abuse cases.

As always, the best way to protect yourself and your children is to take the Stewards of Children class with Darkness to Light. Also, it’s imperative that you read The Gift of Fear and Protecting the Gift by Gavin de Becker. de Becker shares how to protect yourself and your children without living in fear of the world.

While I agree with the IG report that military officials need to secure these bases for security reasons, too many times parents think these bases are secure areas for their children. They believe, as you can see in some of the Facebook comments on Military Spouse, that removing civilians from base housing is an easy answer for security.

While the majority of the people across the globe are good people, it only takes those few to ruin a child’s life. Don’t let it be your child.

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