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Welcome to The Great Place! You have orders to Fort Hood, Texas, one of the largest military installations in the country. Fort Hood lives up to the saying, "Everything is bigger in Texas." You will see this with the vast spaces, houses, CAV patches, as well as great traditions you will come to love.
What do you need to know before you purchase those cowboy boots and head to the Lone Star state? See below for a list of pertinent information, unique customs, and a list of local points of interest all within your reach, then head over to PCSgrades.com to start your housing research or get connected with an A-graded REALTOR!
WHERE IS FORT HOOD?
First things first, Fort Hood is centrally located in Texas about an hour north of Austin and 3 hours south of Dallas. The base is enormous and spans 3 cities when including the training areas, but the central city that houses Fort Hood is Killeen. Harker Heights is to the east and Copperas Cove is to the west, rounding out the other parts of the post. The training and cantonment area combined to cover a whopping 340 square miles, rivaling most of America's larger cities. Fort Hood is also the largest single-site employer in the entire state of Texas with an estimated 45,414 assigned service members and 8,909 civilian employees. That means lots of people, lots of traffic, all converging in one area every day.
FORT HOOD HOUSING
Fort Hood housing is privatized and managed by Winn Companies. Homes range from townhomes to duplexes to single-family homes. West Fort Hood and a few other neighborhoods are considered "on base" but are located about 1-2 miles from the main base and can be easily accessed through multiple gates. Some of these neighborhoods are open to non-military families and not all have gate guards. To see updated photos and read reviews of the neighborhood your family would qualify for, click here. Fort Hood is located in Killeen and Copperas Cove, TX. On base housing is available for all ranks. However, not all neighborhoods fall within the main cantonment area with some communities being across the highway and not having gate guards. Check out photos of all the Ft Hood housing neighborhoods at PCSgrades.com.
The average cost per square foot in the Fort Hood area (Killeen, Harker Heights, Copperas Cove) is around $76, making it a very attractive place to buy a home. Many service members capitalize on the low mortgages and purchase to maximize their BAH. Another bonus…there are no state taxes for Texas! While it is not required to update your Home of Record, Texas has no state taxes, so making the switch will put some extra cash in your pocket! To read reviews from fellow military families on where to live off post, click here.
FORT HOOD WEATHER
You will experience two seasons at Fort Hood: hot and hotter. With mild winters and hot summers, it's rare you will experience all four seasons. With numerous water parks, pools, and lakes in the area to keep you cool, most people don't seem to mind the break from the cold weather. Stay hydrated and just get used to applying that sunscreen, even during Christmas break!
FORT HOOD AMENITIES
There are two large Commissaries and Exchanges located on each side of the main post, and the brand new Carl R. Darnell Army Medical Center opened in March 2016. Seven Elementary schools and two Middle Schools are located on post also. High Schools students living on post are zoned for Killeen High School or Shoemaker High School. Fort Hood also has many medical facilities, pharmacies, restaurants, parks, and pools on the post.
CULTURE AND CUSTOMS
FOOD AND BEVERAGE
One Texas landmark you will come to love is the grocery store H-E-B. Though it may be the only show in town, excluding Walmart and the Commissary, it will never disappoint. H-E-B sells every product you can imagine at low prices and houses a vast array of local Texas wines and beers. After experiencing it once, you will never want to shop anywhere else again.
As for local cuisine, Texas is home to some fantastic BBQ, all things Tex-Mex to include breakfast burritos, and Texas kolaches. What is a Texas kolache you might ask? It's a giant pastry stuffed with meat that you can get with cheese and jalapeños. If you are feeling thirsty after your local cuisine, head to one of the many drive-thru daiquiri bars. (Yep, you read that right… but as always, be responsible and don't drink and drive!) Each city in the Fort Hood area boasts a least one! If you would like something a little more elegant than the local "Brew Thru" you can head to any of the local wineries in the surrounding area. Did I mention Fort Hood loves its local wine and beer?
FORT HOOD TRADITIONS
Fort Hood has so many traditions that you find yourself quickly falling in love with the pomp. First, you have the Cavalry charges! Picture this scenario: cannon shoots, bugle sounds, horses running, guns firing in the air and everyone screaming "CHARGE" as the donkey-drawn wagon brings up the rear. You will feel like you are in an old western. Also, every Friday is "Stetson Friday" on base. That means that from Private on up, you remove your service cap and put on a giant Stetson (aka cowboy) hat. Complimenting that Stetson is either a gold or silver set of spurs, but don't go and buy them, those are earned either through a deployment or a Spur Ride. It's all very John Wayne and romantic.
The cities that make up the greater Fort Hood area are also very military friendly. The Independent School Districts (ISD), are sponsored by units on base and soldiers volunteer their time at those schools. Soldiers typically have late calls and can take their kids to school on the first day. Have a parent deploying or coming home on a school day? No problem! Schools treat this as an excused absence. You are not truly a local until you have a family bluebonnet photo. Bluebonnets are the cherished state flower of Texas and bloom for a few weeks each year. You will see photographers and families pulling off the side of the highway when they spot a "bluebonnet field" all to get that perfect shot.
Texas casual is an actual dress code that will come on event invitations. What does it mean? Jeans and cowboy boots are not only acceptable but encouraged. When in Rome, right? In addition to the boots, you will also see lots of large belt buckles, spurs, and Texas ties.
Homecoming Mums. You are in for a treat if you have never seen or heard of this practice that seems only to take place in Texas. Students will wear giant "mums" attached to their clothes during homecoming week and the contraption consists of anything and everything. They vary from small to large and have ribbons hanging off of them (typically one ribbon per year in school) and can even be blinged out with lights. The sky is the limit with how you decorate your mum. Guys give them to their homecoming dates; girls give them to guys in garter form to wear on their arm, and parents can make a killing if they design and sell these!Stationed at Fort Hood? Pay it forward with a neighborhood review!
AREA ATTRACTIONS NEAR FORT HOOD
Since Fort Hood is located in Central Texas, you have access to some amazing surrounding cities all within a few hours drive.
GEORGETOWN (45-MINUTE TRIP)
Georgetown is a quaint town you will pass on your way to Austin. It has a beautiful city square with local shops, antiques, and excellent restaurants. Not in the mood to shop? Head to the local winery and relax with a wine tasting.
AUSTIN (1-HOUR TRIP)
Austin is not only the Capitol of Texas but known as the music capital of the world. There is so much to do in Austin that you will need to make more than one trip. You can attend a music festival, watch the bats fly off the Congress Avenue Bridge, visit the Lyndon B Johnson Presidential Library, swim in Barton Springs Pool, pose in front of the famous "I love you so much" wall, or catch a University of Texas football game. The options are endless in Austin.
DALLAS (2.5-HOUR TRIP)
Dallas is a large city that deserves more than one trip to accomplish the checklist of events that the town has to offer. The most notable attractions include the JFK History Tour that ends in Dealey Plaza, the George W. Bush Presidential Library, the Dallas World Aquarium, Cowboys football games, Rangers baseball games, the Dallas Zoo and many more parks and museums.
SAN ANTONIO (2.5-HOUR TRIP)
What a fun place to visit! Military families love to take a weekend trip to San Antonio and visit the local attractions. The Riverwalk, lined with colorful umbrellas, restaurants, boat tours, and much more. Or head to Sea World and check out the aquatic life (they even have a great military discount program!). Probably the most visited site in San Antonio would be the Alamo. Just don't ask to see the basement.
HOUSTON (3-HOUR TRIP)
Houston is also home to the (NASA) Space Center Houston, Houston Zoo, Houston Museum of Natural Science, the Astros baseball team, the Downtown Aquarium, and the Children's Museum… just to name a few. Or take a boat tour and participate in one of the many crawfish boils the city hosts.
GALVESTON (4-HOUR TRIP)
Galveston is also where many families like to escape and enjoy a nice beach vacation. You can simply enjoy Island Time in a beach chair or shop around, tour the Moody Gardens, or head to the Lone Star Flight Museum and check out the historical air crafts and artifacts. Galveston is also a major port of call to hop on a cruise ship and take an extended vacation!
This post sponsored by PCSgrades.
PCS orders to Fort Sill? Congratulations and welcome to Oklahoma and the Fires Center of Excellence! This area has plenty of things to do and is sure to be a good fit for every type of family. Between the Army, Marines, National Guard, and retirees, this area is very military-centric. But before you try and visit Big Deuce and Short Round, lets dive in and learn more about your new duty station.
WHERE IS FORT SILL?
First things first, where is Fort Sill? Fort Sill is located outside of Lawton, Oklahoma which is about 1 hour and 30 minutes south west of Oklahoma City. Sill is also 3 hours northwest of Dallas, Texas. Lawton-Ft. Sill regional airport (code LAW) is located about 3 miles from base making this a convenient location to fly in and out of. The next closest airport is in Oklahoma City (OKC).
FORT SILL HOUSING?
Fort Sill housing is run by the privatized company, Corvias. Buffalo Soldier Acres houses families E1-O4 and is the newest of homes on the post. These are homes are conveniently located close to the Welcome Center. Beside Freedom Elementary school, you will find Southern Plains. 3 communities inside of Southern Plains are for families E1-E5, and the other 2 are for E-9 families. The historic homes located in Old Calvary Post house families from E1-Commanding Generals in 8 different locations. This neighborhood is close to post headquarters and the museum.
BAH & COST OF LIVING
The median home cost in the Cache area is $120,000 making it a very attractive place to buy. Want to stretch your BAH even further? Try Lawton where the average cost of a home is $105,500! Elgin is a beloved community of military families due to schools but averages $168,000 to buy a house. Families looking to rent in this area can find homes and apartments to fit all BAH sizes. BAH dropped for 2019 in comparison to past years, but those stationed here before 2019 will be grandfathered in under the old BAH rate. Wondering if you should Rent or Buy? Weigh your options here.
FORT SILL AMENITIES
Fort Sill amenities are vast and have something that the whole family will be sure to enjoy. One of the newest additions to Sill was the multi-million dollar gym equipped with rock climbing wall, on-site CYSS, and hourly childcare. Other amenities include LETRA Beach & Waterslide, numerous pools ( some that let you float and watch a movie!) a bowling alley, library, a golf course, a Rod and Gun Club, Commissary, and a PX.
Welcome to the Midwest where you will get all 4 seasons. Summer will bring you warm temperatures averaging 94 degrees and regular thunderstorms. Peak tornado season is April-June, so it's a good thing to prepare for high winds and check your homeowner's insurance policy to review your wind damage coverage. Winter in Oklahoma brings an average of 6-8 inches of snow and the coldest month is January with an average of 24 degrees. You'll enjoy mild springs and falls!
CUSTOMS AND CULTURE
BIG DEUCE AND SHORT ROUND
Big Deuce and Short Round are Fort Sill's donkey and goat mascots. Fun tidbit, Sill and West Point are the only Army posts left to have live mascots. These local celebrities attend events, get promotions, and eventually retire out to greener pastures making way for their younger counterparts. Big Deuce, the donkey, is a symbol of the Army's muleskinner artillery days. Currently, Sill is on its VII donkey to serve. To promote equality now that military occupational specialties have been opened up to women, Short Round VI was brought on as the first female mascot.
The Artillery Bowl is a historic site used for Soldier's ceremonies, activities, and sports. This sizeable open-air amphitheater also allows families to work out on the stairs, and kids can burn off energy there too!
Ever wonder why we say "Geronimo" when we jump off of or out of something? That is because of the legend of Geronimo escaping and jumping his horse off the steep medicine bluffs at Fort Sill in an attempt to escape. In reality, Geronimo and around 300 other Native American's were held prisoner on Fort Sill and he did not try to actually flee in this manner. Geronimo was a leader in his community and even though he was technically a prisoner, he traveled with Pawnee Bill's Wild West Show, rode in the Inaugural parade of President Theodore Roosevelt, and have free reign of Fort Sill. He died of pneumonia in 1906 and his grave is on Fort Sill and can be visited.
The Medicine Bluff is a sacred ceremonial site where Native American's went for healing and times of reflection. This historic landmark is about 8 miles north of post and located at the bottom of the Wichita Mountains. Enjoy the historic and spiritual significance of this location and make this a must-see.
Throw a rock and you will hit a museum in this area. The Army Artillery Museum, Fort Sill National Historic Landmark Museum, and Museum of the Great Planes are the fan favorites. The Artillery Museum houses a large display of military vehicles outside.
Sill is a short 10 min drive to the Wichita Mountains. There are miles and miles of hiking trails and wildlife to explore, to include herds of Buffalo and Prairie Dogs. The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge has a great welcome center that kids and adults alike enjoy. Going to the top of Mt Scott and seeing for miles around is fun.
Fort Sill is about 65 miles outside of Oklahoma City making this a great day trip or weekend getaway. OKC has a Zoo, tons of museums (we love the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum), and Myriad Botanical Gardens with are excellent ideas. If you are into sports, catch an Oklahoma City Thunder NBA games. The city also hosts numerous music concerts and outdoor festivals that any age can enjoy. Looking for a more adult adventure? Bricktown is an eclectic place to experience with wine bars, piano bars, tons of restaurants, and shopping.
Dallas is a large city that deserves more than one trip to accomplish the checklist of events that the town has to offer. The most notable attractions include the JFK History Tour that ends in Dealey Plaza, the George W. Bush Presidential Library, the Dallas World Aquarium, Cowboys football games, Rangers baseball games, the Dallas Zoo, and many more parks and museums.Read Reviews of Ft. Sill Here
Whether you are here permanent party, attending CCC, BOLC, or just stop by briefly for basic training, Fort Sill is a great duty station to experience. The home of the Fires Center of Excellence truly feels like just that, a home.
This post was sponsored by PCSgrades.
Every military family has thought about doing a Personal Procured Move (PPM) or DITY move at some point along the way. Was it the time the screws to the crib were lost, or you had to sleep on the air mattress for the 14th night in a row? For our family, it was when only half of our HHG arrived at the new duty station. We had a dining room table with no chairs, office chair without a desk, box springs sans the mattress. It took another two weeks to get the issue resolved. Two weeks! And after hearing PCS horror stories from other military families, we realized how lucky we were!