If you’re thinking about joining the Air Force as an enlisted airman you’ll be in Air Force dorms at one point or another. Whether it’s just for initial training or for living at your first duty station.
Some people, possibly even you, will be in the dorms for the first few years of your enlistment. So here’s a look at what Air Force dorms are really like.
Going through dorm life, dorm inspections, dorm ghosting, and even how to move off base early.
Air Force Dorms
Usually, Air force dorms are for young airmen who are in their first few years of the Air Force.
Single airmen going to their first duty station get put into the air force dorms based on availability. While married air force members go straight to either, base housing where it’s an actual house or receive BAH to live off base.
Typically single airmen from the pay grade of E-1 to E-4 will be in the Air Force dorms. After having 3 years of time in service as a Senior Airman (E-4) it’s possible to end the Air Force dorm life and move off base.
Being in a military dorm is close to the college experience. The basic essentials provided in your room will be a bed, desk, mini-fridge, and some storage space. You’ll have your own private room. Much better than in basic training or tech school where you’re sharing living space with others.
The size and features of your Air Force dorm room all depend on what base you’re stationed at, and what timeframe the dorms were built or last renovated. Over the years the dorms have grown larger in size for permanent party members, as well as improved features, but the same can’t be said for all Air Force dorms.
Air Force dorms built in 1995 or earlier have 90 sq ft of living space, plus a shared bathroom.
Air Force dorms build from 1996 to 2002 have 118 sq ft of living space, plus a shared bathroom.
Air Force dorms build 2003 and after have 129 sq ft of living space and a private bathroom.
The Dorms-4-Airmen standard introduced and built starting from 2003 and on is the best room to possibly have as a young airman.
Dorms-4-Airmen house up to 4 airmen in the module, who each have a private room and private bath while sharing a commons area. The commons area for the 4 airmen has a kitchen, social space, laundry space, and utility space.
So fingers crossed you get one of these dorms.
The Air Force has the best quality of life compared to the other branches of service, but not all dorms are up to the Dorms-4-Airmen quality.
Some Air Force bases that house older buildings for airmen dormitories have one commons bay for an entire floor. The commons bay has a social space and kitchen for dozens of airmen. There is also one laundry room per floor at these older buildings.
You can also eat at the dining facility on base usually near the dorm building if you don’t want to use the commons kitchen.
Having a happy Air Force dorm life could all hinge on whether or not your Air Force base has initially built or renovated to the Dorms-4-Airmen standard.
Air Force Dorm Life
Each base is different, some will have all the young airmen from your Air Force job (AFSC) in the same building. Some bases will have everyone scattered around the dormitory buildings. If you’re lucky you’ll have other airmen you work with surrounding you.
What they say is true though, the military becomes your second family. Being so far away from home, having friends around the dorms makes a world of difference.
So make your Air Force dorm life and Air Force enlisted life enjoyable by spending time with your newfound family.
The weekends are the time for many airmen to get together and unwind. You can find many house parties going on in base housing. Everyone from work getting together drinking beers and playing cornhole. As long as you’re 21 or over you’ll find yourself getting invited to get out of the dorms.
If partying isn’t your scene, some Air Force bases offer what’s known as the single airman initiative program. For a nominal fee you and your fellow airmen that signup can go on outdoor adventures. Which is a great way to make new friends and meet people who are also in the dorms as a first term airman.
Airman of all ranks can participate, but the program is largely used by newer airmen trying to get out and explore the area.
Don’t let being new and not knowing anyone ruin your Air Force dorm life. Get out and make some new friends or go on an adventure. Everyone in the Air Force dorms is in the same position as you.
Living in the dorms is one thing, you also gotta keep it clean.
From time to time you’ll be required to do what’s known as bay orderly. Expect your Squadron Commander or First Sergeant to assign you this task at least once.
For the entire week instead of performing your Air Force job, you’ll be doing cleaning tasks around the Air Force base dormitories. One day you could be cleaning a commons area, while the next you’d be picking up cigarettes around the smoke pit.
Dorm management will instruct you on what needs to be accomplished each day, while also handing out the necessary cleaning supplies.
Air Force dorms look nice and there’s a reason for it. You and your fellow airmen are the ones responsible and required to keep it that way.
Air Force Dorm Inspections And Searches
Throughout your time living in Air Force dorms, you’ll have to deal with dorm inspections and on the rare chance, possibly dorm searches.
Dorm inspections are easy, just keep your room relatively clean and occasionally do a deep clean. If you do these simple tasks you’ll have nothing to worry about. Keeping your room clean from the start will keep the dorm inspections away. However, if you fail inspections regularly, there will be plenty of follow-ups to make sure your room is clean and maintained.
Air Force dorm inspections can happen while you are there and even while you are not.
Being labeled as a dirty airman isn’t something you want. Your supervisors could be tasked with doing your dorm inspection, and they will keep on you about it if you fail. Don’t give them ammunition to use against you.
There is also the potential for surprise searches if suspicions arise for paraphernalia and things of that nature. It doesn’t even have to be you, it could be anyone in your dorm building,
One Saturday morning there was loud banging on my Air Force dorm room door. I was reluctant to get out of bed and open up, so I ignored it not realizing what was going on. A few pounds of the door later the people standing outside just unlocked it with the dorm management keys and walked in. I was directed to put some pants on and go to the commons room at the crack of dawn. Waiting there until everyone’s dorm was searched. It wasn’t till an hour later of sitting with the other dorm airmen that we were released back to our rooms.
Don’t be that guy who gets the entire dorm building searched. In the Air Force that’s called a DBA, dirtbag airman.
Dorm ghosting is what you do when you just have zero interest staying in your Air Force dorm room.
You make the appearance as if you live in your dorm, in case someone comes for an inspection. However, In all actuality, you’re staying with a friend or renting somewhere off base out of your own pocket.
With being stationed stateside you have the chance of getting out of the dorm life sooner. Being stationed overseas though doesn’t have that luxury. If you’re overseas expect to stay in the Air Force dorms for a longer amount of time. Possibly even at a higher rank.
So don’t be surprised if you hear about airmen dorm ghosting both stateside and overseas and possibly at higher Air Force ranks.
Moving Out Of Air Force Dorms Early
Normally it takes a few years for airmen to get out of the dorms. A Senior Airman (E-4) can move out of the dorms if permitted at three years in the Air Force. That’s 3 years time in service as an E-4.
However, there are occasions where you can move out of the Air Force dorms early.
When your base has a near full dorm capacity you can get put on a list to move off base to allow newly arriving airman a dorm room. Airman that have been in the dorms longer will be at the top of this list. So the longer you’ve been in the dorms the better your chances.
If your base is performing renovations, plus near the max capacity, it’s
Being an older airman also helps when trying to move out of the dorms early. An older airman that’s able to show money management skills is 10x more likely to leave then an airman who is fresh out of high school and unestablished.
The key person to talk to about moving out is your First Sergeant. They are going to be the deciding factor.
Moving off base, you will start to receive BAH and BAS.
BAH is a housing allowance to pay for your housing expenses. Which can be renting a home or paying down a mortgage. BAS is a food allowance.
Each base is granted different allowance amounts based on the cost of living for an area. You’d receive BAH and BAS monthly on top of your normal pay. You’d be surprised how much BAH certain areas offer. Try putting in your zip code into this BAH calculator.
If you’re lucky, and about to deploy when dorm capacity is high or there are renovations, that’s the perfect time to talk to your First Sergeant aka “First Shirt” about moving.
I moved out of my dorm two days before I deployed and came back from my deployment with $20,000 cause of it.
Here’s a breakdown of how deployment money is earned.
Other Air Force Dorms
Early into joining the Air Force, you’ll find yourself bouncing from dorm location to dorm location. Till you finally arrive at your first duty station. All enlisted airman go through the Air Force basic training dorms plus Air Force tech school dorms.
Air Force Basic Training Dorms
Dozens of trainees will be in a basic training flight with you. There can be up to 50 people per Air Force basic training dorm bay.
Beds are lined up row after row, each perfectly made with hospital corners and 341 slips placed on every bed. Some beds are single beds and some are bunk beds. Personal wall lockers are standing up behind each bed as well. The bay is void of much else besides a large walkway straight down the middle of the room.
Close by will be your instructor’s office, the first few weeks instructors are there nearly 24/7 with you, even sleeping in their office.
The only other areas to your Air Force basic training dorm is gonna be a day room, basically an open room for everyone to gather in. Air Force Instructors have a desk in the day room and spend time talking to the basic training flight and occasionally passing out mail.
The other area is the latrine aka bathroom. The latrine is large, it has to be with up to 50 people per bay. About half the people shave and brush teeth while the other half shower, then everyone switches. The open basic training shower area has dozens of trainees showering and sharing showerheads. It’s common when you have to do everything with so little time.
Going through bmt, my instructor made our entire basic training flight cram into the latrine to do push-ups and flutter kicks. We couldn’t stop until the bathroom mirrors had condensation running down them.
Prepare yourself for bmt with these 50 surprising Air Force basic training facts.
Air Force Tech School Dorms
All first-term airmen during their tech school duration will be in the Air Force tech school dorms, there’s no avoiding it. Even if you’re married.
Each dorm is a two person room with a shared bathroom between the two. It’s not the largest of rooms, only 98 sq ft, but much better than a bay filled with dozens of trainees. Typically tech school dorms will have two beds, one on each wall, plus two desks and chairs.
With a large number of new airmen at tech school, there are multiple levels to the dorm building. On the floor level, you’ll find the main entrance leading to the CQ desk. On other levels of the building, you’ll find multiple day rooms with plenty of seating and tv’s, plus laundry rooms, and study areas.
In this phase of the Air Force, you’ll start to get some personal freedoms back, but you’ll still have things like a dorm curfew. You can’t have alcohol in the dorms. You have to have the door open if someone of the opposite sex is in the room. Air Force dorm rules like that.
Air Force tech school dorms are temporary though, you’ll be able to enjoy more freedoms at your first duty station dorm.
To Wrap It Up
Air Force dorms are what you make of it.
If you stay cooped up in your room you probably wouldn’t enjoy your dorm life. However, if you become social with other dorm airmen around you, you could have
The military is a great experience, just be open to it. And remember, the Air Force has the best quality of life.
If you’re dead set on going to a specific base, then learn how to get stationed at your desired Air Force base.
Air Force Veteran
Corey is an Air Force veteran and the lead writer at Basic to Blues. He refueled fighter jets as a young airman and deployed twice to the Middle East. Now Corey can be found hiking in the Pacific Northwest.
Who the hell… POL!