Eight months ago, Air Force Times embarked on an ambitious project to rank Air Force bases across the U.S., measuring cost of living, housing, schools, traffic and amenities for each area.
The results were surprising.
Bases such as Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, and Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, are popular because of their warm climates and beautiful beaches, but when it came time to consider what it’s like to live, work and raise a family in the Air Force, they did not rise to the very top.
Instead, bases with large supplies of affordable housing, lower costs of living, top commissaries and exchanges and expansive medical facilities came out on top: Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, and Luke Air Force Base, Arizona.
Equally surprising might be the bases absent from the bottom of the list. The base everyone loves to hate — Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota — finished in the top third of the 68 bases evaluated because of its high ratings in cost of living, housing prices and local unemployment rates.
In all, we used 12 criteria to rank each base, with added weight to the criteria we determined to be the most important. But that doesn’t mean the bases at the bottom are bad. Hanscom Air Force Base, near Boston, and Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, close to the nation’s capital, have much to offer, but high housing prices and cost of living pushed these bases to the end of the list.
Each airman has individual criteria about what he or she wants in a base. This list is a handy tool for considering the variables — the pluses and minuses beyond the obvious.