What buildings are in a military base? Those looking from the outside in will see tantalizing glimpses of the activities, organizations, and ceremonies associated with military duty.
To the uninitiated, military bases can seem overwhelming or even threatening. What’s the reality?
Military bases are often like any industrial complex and the mundane realities of life and work on post might actually be a disappointment to the conspiracy-minded and those who often wonder, “What’s really going on in there?”
What Buildings Are On A Military Base? From The Outside Looking In
When you approach a military base such as an Army installation, an Air Force Base, or even a Navy shipyard, the first thing you will notice are miles of fenceline punctuated by military police operations. The most familiar sight on any military base is the front gate or access gate by which you enter the base.
In many areas base access is not permitted without passing by a gate guard shack or a security checkpoint of some kind.
Once upon a time all military bases required all vehicles entering and leaving the base on a regular basis to have official decals, but over time that requirement has given way to more stringent ID checks and other means of controlling access via the gate.
Bases large enough to have an armory may have a special layer of security there in addition to the standard patrols and guard posts.
Security Forces often have buildings or outbuildings near the main access points of a military base. You’ll find more security forces buildings the farther inside the base you go–there are training facilities, weapons ranges, and places where specialized security training happens.
Types of Military Buildings
- Administrative Facilities
- Air Field
- Ammunition Storage Facilities aka Armory
- Canteens or Snack Bars
- Class VI (post store for purchasing beer and liquor)
- Commissary Facilities
- Communications Center
- Correctional Facilities (stockade)
- Guard Shacks aka Guardhouse
- Hospitals & Medical Clinics
- Housing (e.g. barracks, tents, houses)
- Mess Hall
- Military Intelligence Facilities
- Military Police Building
- Motor Pool (fenced in garage and parking lot, for repairing and parking military vehicles)
- POL (Petroleum, Oils, & Lubricants) Storage and Handling Facilities
- Post Exchange (PX)
- Post Headquarters (HQ)
- Rail Head or Depot (to load/unload trains and warehouses)
- Recreation Facilities (Rec Center)
- Research Facilities
- Tank Sheds
- Training Facilities
- Utility Structures
- Vehicle Repair, Maintenance, & Storage Facilities
- Weapons and Ammunition Production Facilities
You may also be able to see a bit of a military runway or flightline from the outside looking in. Military runways have a special significance since their security issues are twofold–there is the obvious need to secure multi-million dollar aircraft and support equipment and keep it safe from theft, terrorist attacks, etc.
Sneak into a military base through a hole you cut in the fence line is likely to get you caught sooner or later–military security patrols do a very good job of keeping the fence secured.
But if you breach the fence and appear on the flight line, your apprehension will take considerably less time due to the number of eyes on that portion of the base. The flight line is one of the most closely watched regions of any military operation.
The Threat of F.O.D.
There’s an extra reason why flightline access is so tightly controlled and why you see a multitude of warning signs mentioning the use of deadly force being authorized in such areas–something called F.O.D. which is an acronym for “foreign object damage”.
The acronym traditionally describes both the effects of F.O.D. and the objects themselves. F.O.D. can potentially happen when any stray object makes it to the flightline, an aircraft hangar, etc.
These objects can get sucked into a jet engine and destroy it. A soda can, a small stone, or even a bird can get sucked into a jet engine or an intake and cause significant damage.
Unauthorized visits to the flightline can directly result in “contamination” of the flightline by F.O.D. in the form of litter, lost or discarded personal items, etc. Security Forces pay special attention to flightline operations for many reasons, but this is a big one.
And what about all those mysterious looking hangars, quonset huts, and other buildings you might catch a glimpse of from across the flightline from the fence? Many of these are aircraft maintenance and storage facilities.
A fleet of working fighters, bombers, tankers, and cargo planes all require constant maintenance including scheduled maintenance, damage control, and training for new repair crews and maintainers.
What You Can’t See From The Outside Looking In
There are a lot of things you can’t see looking in from the outside. Military bases have many unusual buildings and structures.
Some of these are simple offices and work spaces–military bases have a Public Affairs office, a Protocol office for visiting VIPs and local officials, and often there is a base telecommunications office responsible for phone services including the base operator.
A familiar sight on many bases or posts is the Family Support Center, and there are plenty of gyms, fitness centers, and even restaurants and bars located on post. All of these operations are routine, and the daily activities in these sections of the base are no different in many respects to a state or city government operation. Others can be quite different.
Base Medical Facilities
Base clinics and hospitals are common. But what’s not so common are the satellite facilities required for medical work on a military base.
Did you know that many bases feature an office dedicated to entomology, environmental controls, and environmental cleanup efforts? There may also be research clinics or R&D efforts at a given base or post, depending on the mission.
Base medical facilities naturally require certain things for typical operations including the need for post-mortem identification (depending on the base and the mission), remains holding areas, and infectious medical waste disposal.
Satellite Dishes And Elephant Cages
One very familiar sight on military bases, especially those overseas? Satellite dishes and large structures often referred to as “elephant cages” which are often telecommunications structures performing/receiving various levels of classified or unclassified communications.
Many intelligence agencies have a nest of satellite dishes co-located with the main facility. The use and nature of these may or may not be classified. In some cases they may be strictly routine, civilian-style dishes with mundane uses. In others they may provide satellite uplink or other services as required by the mission.
Other Buildings You’ll Find On Military Bases
Common buildings on Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and even Coast Guard bases can include training areas for nuclear, chemical, and biological warfare.
That often means a specially designed “chamber” where trainees are instructed in the proper wear and use of a gas mask with tear gas used in the chamber to show students what can happen if you don’t have a properly fitted gas mask.
Base fire departments feature the usual facilities you might expect, but with the added use of special fire training areas featuring structures designed to be set aflame again and again for training purposes. You’ll often find mockups of aircraft among these structures.
Like many small communities, Army bases and others may have a water tower, an electrical plant, and other support services all operated on-base or adjacent to it. Depending on the mission, a base may have a fleet of vehicles stored in centralized locations to be used on the flightline, in maintenance depots, etc.
And maintenance depots themselves can be large operations spanning several football fields in size depending on the location and the mission. These facilities are often self-contained with their own dining areas, snack rooms and break areas, etc.
Any installation operating aircraft whether fixed-wing or rotor airframes will require a fuels facility to store and transfer jet fuel when needed. And that requires special consideration from fire department crews who must respond should an incident occur involving jet fuel, fuel trucks or tankers, etc. which means a fire department may have a larger-than-usual “footprint” on the base as a result.
This is by no means an exhaustive account of all buildings you’ll find on a military base, but it does serve to demystify the presence and activities of these communities at home an overseas