Special Report

America's Military Cities

Samuel Stebbins, Evan Comen

Source: Chmiel / Getty Images

15. Colorado Springs, CO
> Military members & families: 75,427 (10.6% of pop.)
> Largest military base: Fort Carson
> Veterans: 102,928 (14.4% of pop.)

The Colorado Springs metro area is home to three military installations: the U.S. Air Force Academy, Peterson Air Force Base, and Fort Carson. The U.S. Air Force Academy, located roughly 20 miles north of the Peterson Air Force Base, is highly competitive, accepting just about 1,000 of the 12,000 undergraduate applicants every year. Peterson Air Force Base is home to the North American Aerospace Defense Command, U.S. Northern Command, Air Force Space Command, and Space and Missile Defense Command.

The largest military installation in Colorado Springs is Fort Carson, home to 24,034 servicemen and women and many of their 35,886 spouses and family members. In total, there are 75,427 military personnel and family members associated with the metro area, equivalent to 10.6% of the Colorado Springs population.

Source: usnavy / Flickr

14. Bremerton-Silverdale, WA
> Military members & families: 29,097 (11.0% of pop.)
> Largest military base: Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton
> Veterans: 37,137 (14.0% of pop.)

The number of active duty service men and women and their families as well as veterans in Bremerton-Silverdale equal about one-quarter of the metro area’s total population. The metro area is home to two U.S. Navy installations: Naval Base Kitsap — comprised of the naval station in Bremerton and the naval submarine base in Bangor — and the Bremerton naval hospital. Roughly 29,000 active duty service men and women and their dependents are associated with Naval Base Kitsap.

As a whole, Washington state is one of the largest military spenders in the country. In fiscal 2015, state defense spending totaled $12.6 billion, more than in all but six other states.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

13. Sumter, SC
> Military members & families: 12,342 (11.5% of pop.)
> Largest military base: Shaw Air Force Base
> Veterans: 12,867 (12.0% of pop.)

The Sumter metro area is home to Shaw Air Force Base, one of the oldest Air Force installations in the country. Shaw AFB is home to the 20th Fighter Wing, the largest combat F-16 wing in the Air Force. The 20th Fighter Wing was established in 1947, and conducted combat missions against Iraqi forces during the Persian Gulf War, including Operation Desert Storm. It executed patrol missions over several major U.S. cities following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Shaw has a total of 12,342 active servicemen and servicewomen and dependents, making up 11.5% of the metro area population. Shaw is also the largest employer in Sumter, accounting for 22.0% of total employment in the city.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

12. New Bern, NC
> Military members & families: 15,219 (12.2% of pop.)
> Largest military base: Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station
> Veterans: 18,844 (15.1% of pop.)

Both the Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station and the Cherry Point Naval Aviation installations are located in the New Bern, North Carolina metro area. Together, the bases are home to some 7,500 active duty service men and women and many of their 7,700 dependents. The Marine Air Station is far and away the largest of the two bases, accounting for about 94% of on-base military personnel and family members in the metro area.

Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station served as a training facility for troops headed to the Pacific theater in WWII. The base also played a role in combat operations during the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Desert Storm, and the recent conflicts in Iraq in Afghanistan. Today, the base has a number of on-site amenities and services including shopping, restaurants, entertainment, and counseling to accommodate the families of service members.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

11. Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC
> Military members & families: 223,157 (12.9% of pop.)
> Largest military base: Norfolk Naval Base
> Veterans: 232,704 (13.5% of pop.)

The Virginia Beach metro area is home to the largest military population of any city. Comprising 10 military installations, Virginia Beach hosts 97,370 active servicemen and women and many of their 125,787 dependents, the largest military population of any metro area. The largest military installation in the area is the Naval Station Norfolk, the largest concentration of naval forces in the United States.

Virginia Beach also has a major presence of veterans. Exiting military personnel most commonly work as electrical mechanics, law enforcement workers, and automobile mechanics in the Hampton Roads area. Veterans constitute 13.5% of the metro area population, more than twice the 6.2% national average.