With so many articles going viral these days about the worst duty stations and military towns you definitely don’t want to live in, we think it’s high time to dispel a few myths and push some much-needed positivity. We get it, the “It’s what you make of it” mantra is annoying to some people, but that doesn’t make the statement any less true. Every duty station and its military town has something unique to offer, and we’re here to tell you why these five places deserve more credit.
1. Columbus, GA (Fort Benning)
Not only is Columbus the second-largest city in Georgia, but there’s tons to do in and around it. Just a quick trip to Uptown on a Friday evening is enough to prove there’s life in this city! Enjoy the outdoors? Go fishing or whitewater rafting on the Chattahoochee (Columbus is home to the nation’s longest urban whitewater rafting course). Love to eat? Go to any one of the amazing restaurants found on almost every corner. The BBQ scene is fantastic, by the way (check out our BBQ guide!). A fan of the arts? See a play or musical at Springer Opera House or RiverCenter. Missing the beach? Take a freakin’ daytrip to the Gulf of Mexico (it’s only 3.5 hours away, ya know).
You know the saying “There’s an app for that”? Well, no matter what you’re looking for near Fort Benning, “There’s a spot for that.” Escape rooms, wine tasting, comedy club, concerts, hockey games, BRUNCH! For heaven’s sake, what about brunch? I will throat punch the next person who says there’s nothing to do in Columbus.
2. El Paso, TX (Fort Bliss)
Photo by JC Findley
C’mon people. El Paso is a city with a population of more than 600,000. Do you really think there’s nothing to do in a city this big? Anybody who loves tacos, which should be everybody (latest national polls show there isn’t a single person who doesn’t like tacos…it’s true…it’s on the internet) should love El Paso on principle alone. Not only this, but it’s actually very safe; consistently ranked in the top safest cities annually.
Being a bordertown, residents and Soldiers stationed at Fort Bliss get to experience the culture of the Southwest at its finest. Almost nowhere else in the United States can members of the military actually have such consistent access to Mexican culture that’s right in their backyards. It is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience for anyone not from a bordertown and you would be remise to not take full advantage of this.
3. Manhattan, KS (Fort Riley)
About 15 minutes outside of Fort Riley sits this great military and college town! Home of Kansas State University, Manhattan is a lively city with a young and energetic vibe. Aggieville is at the heart where you can find the majority of the action, be that food or events. This strip of college bars, restaurants and quirky stores is always a great place to be no matter your age.
Manhattan is also part of the Flint Hills region, so there’s great hunting, fishing and hiking in the area. Additionally, Manhattan hosts the annual Country Stampede music festival with all the big names in country music. So sit back and enjoy the culture of the Midwest!
4. Fairbanks, AK (Fort Wainwright)
Photo by Bureau of Land Management
Located in Alaska’s interior, Fairbanks is Northern Lights country. This alone should be incentive enough to love this place as people travel from all over the globe to check this off their bucket lists, but you get to have it right in your backyard! Fairbanks is either a love it or hate it duty station. If you’re up for some great outdoor activities, then you’d be hard-pressed to find a duty station with better opportunities. Hunters and trappers can especially rejoice due to the large population of more exotic species that you’ll never get in the lower 48. Check out the Chena Hot Springs, hike the White Mountains and go rock climbing at Angel Rocks.
Above all else, if there’s one thing that people love about this town, it’s that they build strong, lasting friendships. So, embrace the cold temps and snuggle up next to your loved ones or a moose…whichever you prefer.
5. Sierra Vista, AZ (Fort Huachuca)
Photo by wild trees
There are so many reasons to love being stationed at Fort Huachuca! For one, the area is breathtakingly beautful as you’re living at the base of the Huachuca Mountains. The arid, desert landscape will quickly grow on you after you take your first hike. With almost 300 days of sun per year, it’s considered one of the best climates in the United States!
Not only are the climate and landscape amazing, but there’s plenty of great eats and sights in the area. A quick drive will land you in Sonoita Wine Country where people travel to from all across the country to enjoy wine in the midst of gorgeous views and big skies! You’re also right down the road from the historic town of Tombstone and my personal favorite, Bisbee! This old mining town has so much character and charm along with tons to do. Go on a ghost tour, attend their famous Halloween block party, go to a festival, or participate in the Bisbee 1000 race (the town is laced with long, secretive staircases all over the hills that make for a fun race or an enjoyable morning walk).
Look, I’m sure there are plenty of people who’ve had bad experiences in each of these locations and I also acknowledge that these duty stations are more off the beaten path. But, having spoken to and known hundreds of people who’ve been stationed at these places (including myself!), the overwhelming majority have found beauty and joy that they never expected. Happy travels!
Cover photo by The U.S. Army
*All photos are by Right and Up unless otherwise noted
About the Author
Riley is an active duty US Army Captain and the Founder of Right and Up. She’s currently stationed at Fort Benning, with previous assignments at Fort Huachuca, Fort Bliss and Fort Riley. You can typically find her eating embarrassingly large amounts of food in local restaurants, or exploring her military town with her husband, Sean and her dog, Gus. Connect with her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter!