The problem: your boyfriend is in the military and lives in the barracks. Why you should keep reading: You want to know if you can visit, and what barracks life is like!
What it’s like to have a boyfriend in the barracks
I spent last Saturday in military barracks. It’s been a long time since I was a young military girlfriend, sneaking into the barracks rooms and trying to visit my boyfriend in the barracks. I once camped out in an empty barracks room for an entire weekend. But that’s another story…
This time, I was there completely legally. Along with a large team of volunteers from Operation Help a Hero, I was helping to clean and prepare barracks rooms for service members returning from deployment. And boy, did it give me some flashbacks of my college days!
There are barracks on every military base. This is the housing area for any service members who are not married (or are geographically separated from their spouse.) Barracks are filled with hundreds of individual rooms, kind of like a motel. Service members usually have a roommate that is a similar rank to them.
They may have their own bathroom, or share a bathroom with a neighboring room. The room contains beds (racks), dressers (foot lockers), closets, a small refrigerator, a microwave, and a desk, with a chair. The government provides basic bed linens. The service member provides anything else they need while living there.
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Military barracks are like dorm rooms:
All your friends live on the same floor.
Wasn’t this one of the coolest parts of college dorm life—making friends on your floor? If you were bored or lonely or wanted to share some news, you could just wander down the hall to a friend’s room.
Well, in the military, guys from the same unit typically live in the same building too. So your boyfriend has some friends that he sees all day, every day. They go to work together, work out together, eat together, and brush their teeth together. They probably get in trouble together, too. They’re tight, in a goofy bro-mance kind of way.
The furniture is uncomfortable, or broken.
Maybe your college had fancy new dorms and nice furniture. Mine definitely did not. The cinder block walls and cheap wooden furniture were not very inviting until we brought in our own stuff and made the place look like home.
When we were setting up a whole floor of barracks rooms for returning service members, almost every room had broken desk chairs. Some had broken beds. Others were missing curtains, light covers, or door handles. Even the bedding is very low quality and uncomfortable. So if your boyfriend in the barracks complains about his room or wants to buy his own stuff, be supportive. You could even send him some decent sheets in the next care package.
There are visiting hours.
In college, I once got in trouble when I tried to let my boyfriend spend the night in my room. The dorm had rules: no overnight visitors, and a light must be on all the time. There are similar rules for your boyfriend in the barracks. Girls are allowed to visit men in the barracks, but you cannot spend the night. You must sign in with the duty at the front desk. The door to the barracks room is supposed to be propped open during the visit.
Rules may vary for different units, but usually you must sign out by 10 PM. To get on base, you must have a pass or a sponsor when you arrive at the gate.
“Military barracks have visiting hours. You cannot spend the night!” ~The Seasoned Spouse
Everyone does their own laundry.
Every weekend in college, it was a ritual for me to lug my laundry bag down several flight of stairs to the laundry room. There, I would discover that all the machines were full. I could either sit and wait for one to become available, or leave the clothes there and return to my room for a while. Both choices had their own risks. If I was lucky enough to find a machine that was finished, I had to consider whether to wait for someone else to move their wet clothes, or just put it in the dryer for them. And if you left your own clothes in a dryer too long—watch out! Someone might come and toss them onto the floor!
It’s basically the same in the barracks, except everyone’s clothes are the same color. And they steal each other’s socks. True story.
You can eat at the cafeteria… or “cook” your own food.
College cafeterias are really hit or miss. Some are like fancy food courts with a variety of options. Others are like school lunch lines, where the meal of the day is instant mashed potatoes, wilted vegetables, and unidentified meat. A military chow hall is more like the latter.
The food on base is somewhat healthy and tasty, but not very exciting, and the menu is repetitive. The only good thing about a chow hall is that the meals are free for unmarried service members, and it is in walking distance of their room. If they don’t want to eat 3 meals a day at the chow hall, most guys keep some food in their rooms—easy things that can be frozen and microwaved. They also like to order pizza or Chinese food on the weekends. So if your boyfriend is spending some of his cash on delivery food, don’t blame him. It’s really easy to get tired of eating at the same cafeteria every day.
You’ll find support and encouragement for your entire military journey in my book, Open When: Letters of Encouragement for Military Spouses. It has inspirational messages for many common challenges of military life, so you’ll always have a friendly word to help you out! You can find it on Amazon, purchase it directly from the publisher, or order an autographed copy here.
What to send in a barracks care package:
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If you want to send a care package to your boyfriend in the barracks, you can send almost anything that would be useful to a college student. Reading the description above should give you a better idea of his daily life and how he is spending his time. So here are some things that are usually appreciated by anyone living in the barracks:
- Toiletries like soap, shampoo, shaving cream, deodorant, or cologne
- Laundry detergent gel pods, and dryer sheets
- Cleaning supplies like sponges and scrub brushes (do not mail anything with bleach or under pressure)
- Snacks like granola bars, beef jerky, dried fruit, trail mix, sunflower seeds, etc.
- Microwavable food like Cup o Noodles, Easy Mac, soup, Spaghetti-O’s
- Nice towels or sheets
- Décor to make it homey (a picture of you, poster of a band or movie he likes, photo album or anything sentimental you made for him)
- Shower shoes (plastic flip flops)
- Entertainment like games for his Xbox or PS4, card games, even goofy things like Nerf guns.