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Can Civilians Get on Military Bases?

Military bases typically house service members, personnel, and their relatives. However, a military base is not just another neighborhood that anyone can visit. Most bases are restricted to the public. So, is it possible for civilians to get on military bases?

TLDR – Civilians can get on military bases if they are a spouse or dependent of a service member or sponsored by a service member. However, the policies vary from base to base. Many bases also have visitor centers that are open to the public or require a special visitor pass.


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How to Visit Someone on a Military Base?

There are several ways for civilians to visit military bases, depending on their reasons for visiting. Dependents and spouses of service members that live on-base receive dependent ID cards. They must present the dependent ID card each time that they enter the base.

Dependents and spouses may also typically bring one visitor. However, the visitor needs to present a valid form of identification, such as a state ID or driver’s license. Most military bases will not accept expired IDs.

Along with dependents and guests of dependents, most military bases allow service members to sponsor one visitor at a time. The service member typically needs to complete a sponsorship form before the visit or meet the visitor at the gate.

If a visitor plans on driving their own vehicle onto the base, the service member often needs to request a pass about a week before the visit. The base pass request form requires the visitor’s name and driver’s license number. The visitor may also need to present proof of insurance and vehicle registration.


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Some military bases also have designated areas that are available to the public, either by purchasing a visitor pass or visiting during specific hours. For example, the Travis Air Force Base in California has a museum dedicated to the history of the base and the US Air Force. The Travis Heritage Center is operated by volunteers and has limited visiting hours but remains open to the public for those who have the necessary ID.

What Are the Military Base Entrance Requirements?

The US Congress passed the REAL ID Act in 2005 to increase the security of military bases. The Act goes into effect in October 2021. Starting on October 1st, 2021, anyone entering a military base will need to present a valid ID that meets the REAL ID Act requirements.

The REAL ID Act set standards that include the minimum information required on a state-issued ID card. The ID now needs to include tamper- and counterfeit-resistant security features and machine-readable technology.


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As of September 2020, all 50 states now include the REAL ID requirements for newly issued state IDs. Most states adopted the new requirements in the past four years. Most IDs are valid for four to six years, which means that some current IDs may not meet the REAL ID requirements.

For military base visits planned after October 2021, visitors should ensure that they have a REAL ID-compliant card. Information is available on the individual websites for each state’s department of transportation.

Can Civilians Spend the Night on a Military Base?

Yes, civilians can spend the night on a military base when visiting as a sponsored guest or family member of a service member. However, civilians cannot sleep in the barracks.

The rules vary from one base to the next, but visitors typically need to leave designated areas by 10 PM.

Most military bases that house family members of military personnel have accommodations for overnight visitors. Some military bases may also allow service members to stay with their guests in the visitor accommodations.


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Can a Civilian Buy Gas on a Military Base?

Most military bases have gas stations and a commissary. However, only service members and their dependents can make purchases on a military base. Military bases also typically have regulations that prohibit service members from making purchases for visitors.

When making a purchase, the attendant should request a valid military ID. Active-duty servicemembers and veterans with valid IDs should be able to make a purchase.

However, civilian employees working on the military base may be allowed to purchase food, beverages, and gas. Civilian employees should receive a government-issued ID, such as a DoD ID card, to present when making purchases on base.

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