Special Report

America's Military Cities

Detailed findings & methodology:

Some states have higher concentrations of active duty service men and women than others. For example, nearly half of all military personnel stationed in the United States live in just six states: California, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia. Not surprisingly, 11 of America’s 25 military cities are located in these states.

Every metro area on this list qualifies as a military city due to the presence of at least one major military base. These installations are used for a variety of purposes, including training and deploying troops and maintaining and testing weapons systems. For millions of active duty servicemen and women and their families, these installations are also their homes, often complete with on-site schools, medical facilities, and child care services.

America’s military cities contain bases for one or more service branches of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and the Marine Corps. The largest bases in the metro areas on this list range in size from Francis E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming and its 6,433 personnel to the Naval Station Norfolk in the Virginia Beach metro area, which, with 144,727 active duty servicemen and women and family members, is the largest military installation in the country.

Reasons why the cities on this list are home to major military installations vary. Eglin Air Force Base in the Crestview, Florida metro area, for example, became the missile technology test site and flight training ground it is today because a local businessman donated much of the land to the U.S. Government during the Great Depression in hopes the military payroll would give the economy a boost.

Meanwhile, Fort Wainwright in the Fairbanks, Alaska metro area was initially established because the regional climate was ideal for testing aircraft in arctic conditions. Fort Hood, located in the Killeen-Temple, Texas metro area, served as a testing and development site for anti-tank guns during World War II because of the ample space it afforded.

The presence of bases like these has considerable social and economic impacts on the communities surrounding them. Among the metro areas on this list, the number of military personnel and their family members — represented as a share of the total population — ranges from 6.0% in California-Lexington Park, Maryland to 60.1% in Hinesville, Georgia.

The cities on this list also tend to have relatively large veteran populations. Nationwide, military veterans account for 6.2% of the population. Every metro area on this list has a higher concentration of military veterans than the U.S. as a whole — reaching as high as 20.1% of the total population in Hinesville, Georgia.

To identify America’s military cities, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the total number of military personnel and their dependents stationed on bases located within metropolitan statistical areas, a geographic region defined by the U.S. Census Bureau that approximates the economic and social network surrounding a core city. Metro areas were ranked based on the number of military personnel and their families as a percentage of the metro area’s population. The dependent figures reflect the number of known dependents affiliated with active duty servicemen and women, whether or not they live within the metropolitan area. Data on military installations, including their locations and personnel counts, were accessed on August 8, 2018 from the 2016 Demographics Report, compiled by Defense Department contractor Military OneSource. Total metro area population and veteran population counts are from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016 American Community Survey.

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