Special Report

America’s 25 Military Cities

Bill Chizek / iStock via Getty Images

The American military is the world’s preeminent fighting force. The significance of the U.S. military, however, is not limited to geopolitics. Domestically, the military serves as an economic and social pillar in cities across the country — employing thousands, and contributing billions of dollars each year to local economies. 

There are nearly 1.2 million Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine service members assigned at military bases across the United States. An additional 1.5 million of their spouses and children are stationed at those same bases. These servicemen and servicewomen and their families attend local schools, shop at local businesses, and are fundamental to the fabric of their communities. 

Using data compiled by Defense Department contractor Military OneSource, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the total number of active duty military personnel and their dependents as a share of the total population at the metro area level to identify America’s military cities. In the metro areas on this list, U.S. troops and their families account for anywhere from 6.7% to over 50% of the total population. Nationwide, less than 1% of the population are active-duty service members. 

The large military presence in the metro areas on this list is typically attributable to the presence of one or several nearby military bases or installations. These bases are home to thousands of military personnel and sometimes their families. Some of the metro areas are home to some of the largest military bases in the world. Here is a look at America’s largest military bases

Not only do these cities often have large active-duty military populations, but many also appeal to former servicemen and servicewomen. Nationwide, 5.3% of the population are veterans. In nearly every metro area on this list, veterans comprise a far larger share of the total population. Here is a look at the states with the most veterans.

Click here to see America’s military cities.
Click here to see our methodology.

Source: Davel5957 / Getty Images

25. Cheyenne, WY
> Military members and their families: 6.7% of pop. (6,716)
> Largest military base: Francis E. Warren Air Force Base
> Service branch with largest presence: Air Force
> Veterans: 9.3% of pop. (9,249)

In Cheyenne, Wyoming, 6.7% of the population are active-duty servicemen and servicewomen and their families. The strong military presence in the metro area is largely attributable to the Francis E. Warren Air Force Base. Just over 3,000 military personnel are stationed at the base, along with about 3,650 of their dependents.

As is often the case in cities with large military populations, Cheyenne also has a substantial veteran population. Nearly one in every 10 people living in the metro area have previously served in the military, compared to about one in every 20 Americans nationwide.

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Source: DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

24. El Paso, TX
> Military members and their families: 7.1% of pop. (60,307)
> Largest military base: Fort Bliss
> Service branch with largest presence: Army
> Veterans: 5.1% of pop. (42,774)

The El Paso metro area in Texas is home to Fort Bliss, a 1.1 million acre Army base where the 1st Armored Division, the army’s preeminent and oldest armored unit, is stationed. All 26,000 active-duty service members and their 34,207 dependents who live in the El Paso metro area are stationed at the base, accounting for 7.1% of the total metro area population.

Other units stationed at the base include the 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command and the 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade. In addition to the U.S. Army, through a large FBI, DEA, and Customs and Border Patrol presence in the area, much of El Paso’s economy is tied to the federal government.

Source: razyph / iStock via Getty Images

23. Sierra Vista-Douglas, AZ
> Military members and their families: 7.4% of pop. (9,302)
> Largest military base: Fort Huachuca
> Service branch with largest presence: Army
> Veterans: 14.5% of pop. (18,302)

There are approximately 126,000 people living in Arizona’s Sierra Vista-Douglas metro area — and 7.4% of them are active-duty service members and their families. All of the more than 4,100 active-duty military personnel in the area and their 5,200 dependents are assigned to Fort Huachuca, an Army base located less than 15 miles west of Sierra Vista. Initially established in the 1870s during the Indian Wars, the base is now home to the U.S. Army Intelligence Center and the U.S. Army’s Network Enterprise Technology Command.

The Sierra Vista metro area has an even larger veteran population. Over 18,000 metro area residents, or 14.5% of the population, have previously served in the U.S. military.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

22. Elizabethtown-Fort Knox, KY
> Military members and their families: 7.8% of pop. (11,930)
> Largest military base: Fort Knox
> Service branch with largest presence: Army
> Veterans: 11.2% of pop. (17,306)

Fort Knox is a U.S. Bullion Depository that holds about 147.3 million ounces of gold — equal to about half all the U.S. Treasury’s gold. Fort Knox is also an Army base to which 4,842 active-duty personnel are assigned. Service members, together with their 7,088 dependents, comprise 7.8% of the population of the surrounding Elizabethtown-Fort Knox metro area.

As is often the case in cities with large military populations, the metro area also has a substantial veteran population. More than one in every 10 people living in the metro area have previously served in the military, compared to about one in every 20 Americans nationwide.

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Source: oddharmonic / Flickr

21. Goldsboro, NC
> Military members and their families: 7.9% of pop. (9,669)
> Largest military base: Seymour Johnson Air Force Base
> Service branch with largest presence: Air Force
> Veterans: 7.9% of pop. (9,785)

Nearly 8% of the Goldsboro, North Carolina, metro area population, or about 9,700, are either an active-duty military service member or a dependent of one. An additional 9,800 metro area residents are military veterans.

The military presence in Goldsboro is dominated by the Air Force. There are about 4,600 active-duty Air Force service members assigned to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in the city of Goldsboro. The base covers 3,300 acres in the city and is home to the 4th Fighter Wing.

Source: SeanPavonePhoto / Getty Images

20. Hilton Head Island-Bluffton, SC
> Military members and their families: 7.9% of pop. (17,502)
> Largest military base: Parris Island Marine Corps Recruit Depot
> Service branch with largest presence: Marine Corps
> Veterans: 8.4% of pop. (18,589)

The Hilton Head, South Carolina, area is perhaps better known as a resort community and vacation destination, but for 17,500 military personnel and their families, it is home. The Parris Island Marine Corps Recruit Depot, located in the Hilton Head metro area, serves as a basic training facility of the U.S. Marine Corps. As of 2019, over 7,400 active duty Marines were stationed at the base.

Hilton Head is one of two metro areas in South Carolina to rank on this list and one of many more in the Southern United States.

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Source: leezsnow / Getty Images

19. Great Falls, MT
> Military members and their families: 8.3% of pop. (6,792)
> Largest military base: Malmstrom Air Force Base
> Service branch with largest presence: Air Force
> Veterans: 11.9% of pop. (9,659)

The Malmstrom Air Force Base, located in Great Falls, Montana, houses 150 intercontinental ballistic missiles. It is also home to nearly 6,800 active-duty Air Force service members and their dependents. Due to the base’s presence, 8.3% of the total metro area population are either active-duty military or dependents.

Military personnel and their families are outnumbered in Great Falls by former military personnel, however. Nearly 10,000 people in the metro area, or about 12% of the total population, are veterans.

Source: David Crockett Photo / Getty Images

18. Hanford-Corcoran, CA
> Military members and their families: 9.2% of pop. (14,119)
> Largest military base: Lemoore Naval Air Station
> Service branch with largest presence: Navy
> Veterans: 5.0% of pop. (7,719)

The Hanford-Corcoran, California, metro area is one of only a handful of military cities where the Navy is the dominant branch. The Lemoore Naval Air Station, located about 20 miles west of Hanford, has 6,590 active-duty sailors and 7,529 of their dependents assigned to it. Those service members and their families account for 9.2% of the total metro area population.

The air station is one of the busiest airfields in the Navy, conducting more than 200,000 flight operations annually, and it has grown rapidly in recent years. The base’s primary function is to provide support, through training, equipment, and personnel, to the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

Source: makasana / Getty Images

17. Sumter, SC
> Military members and their families: 9.3% of pop. (13,103)
> Largest military base: Shaw Air Force Base
> Service branch with largest presence: Air Force
> Veterans: 8.3% of pop. (11,600)

There are about 140,500 people living in Sumter, South Carolina — and 9.3% of them are active-duty military personnel and their dependents. The high concentration of military families in the area is because of the presence of Shaw Air Force Base, which is one of the oldest Air Force bases in the country.

Shaw is home to the 20th Fighter Wing — the largest combat F-16 wing in the Air Force. The base, and the servicemen and servicewomen stationed there, have an annual economic impact on Sumter estimated at $2.5 billion, according to the city.

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Source: jmoor17 / Getty Images

16. Bremerton-Silverdale-Port Orchard, WA
> Military members and their families: 9.7% of pop. (26,448)
> Largest military base: Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton
> Service branch with largest presence: Navy
> Veterans: 11.8% of pop. (32,118)

Nearly one in every 10 residents of the Bremerton-Silverdale-Port Orchard, Washington, metro area are either military personnel or their family. The service members are assigned to the Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton, which provides support to the Navy’s fleet in the Pacific Northwest. Formed in 2004 through the consolidation of five other naval stations, NB Kitsap is now the third largest Navy base in the United States.

The base is estimated to have contributed $4.0 billion in economic activity in the region in fiscal 2017.

Source: JillLang / Getty Images

15. New Bern, NC
> Military members and their families: 10.3% of pop. (12,819)
> Largest military base: Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station
> Service branch with largest presence: Marine Corps
> Veterans: 11.9% of pop. (14,842)

New Bern, North Carolina, is one of only 15 metro areas in the United States in which one in every 10 residents, nearly 13,000 people, are either active duty military or a military family member. Most of the military personnel in the metro area serve at the Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station, located less than 20 miles south of downtown New Bern.

The Cherry Point military base, which was established in 1942, was named a Superfund site by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1994 due to contaminated groundwater, surface water, and soil. The contamination is attributed to waste waste disposal and storage practices at the base. The U.S. Navy is currently spearheading efforts to clean up the contamination under the oversight of the EPA.

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Source: SWKrullImaging / Getty Images

14. Colorado Springs, CO
> Military members and their families: 10.3% of pop. (77,139)
> Largest military base: Fort Carson
> Service branch with largest presence: Army
> Veterans: 11.7% of pop. (87,577)

Of the 745,791 Americans living in the Colorado Springs metro area, 77,139 are active duty military servicemen and servicewomen and their families. The high concentration of military personnel in the city is due to the presence of several bases, including Peterson Air Force Base and Schriever Air Force Base.

The largest base in the metro area, however, is the Fort Carson Army Base. Nearly 25,000 soldiers and 33,000 of their dependents are assigned to the base. Fort Carson alone is estimated to have a $2.4 billion economic impact on the area annually.

Source: Art Wager / Getty Images

13. Urban Honolulu, HI
> Military members and their families: 10.4% of pop. (101,603)
> Largest military base: Schofield Barracks
> Service branch with largest presence: Army
> Veterans: 6.6% of pop. (63,914)

Of the nearly 975,000 people living in the Honolulu metro area, 10.4% are active duty military and their families. Often, cities with a large military presence are dominated by a single branch of the services. Honolulu, however, hosts multiple bases and is home to thousands of troops from each of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine service branches. The largest base in the metro area by personnel — including both active-duty service members and their dependents — is the Army’s Schofield Barracks, followed by the Pearl Harbor Naval Base.

The military presence in Honolulu has a significant cultural and economic impact on the community. In fiscal 2018, DoD direct spending added $7.2 billion to Hawaii’s economy. Over half of that spending went to local businesses.

Source: Oliver Kawwass / Getty Images

12. Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC
> Military members and their families: 10.8% of pop. (191,109)
> Largest military base: Norfolk Naval Base
> Service branch with largest presence: Navy
> Veterans: 11.1% of pop. (196,519)

Active-duty personnel serving at Norfolk Naval Base and their dependents account for 109,000 of Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News population, more than any other base under the purview of the U.S. Navy. With the additional presence of several other naval bases, as well as the Fort Story Army base, there are over 191,000 troops and their families living in the Virginia Beach metro area — equal to 10.8% of the total population.

The military’s impact on the local economy and culture does not stop there. Defense contractor Newport News Shipbuilding — the only company that builds nuclear powered aircraft carriers and one of only two capable of building nuclear submarines — is also located in the metro area. Virginia Beach is also home to over 196,000 veterans.

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Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

11. Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin, FL
> Military members and their families: 14.3% of pop. (40,818)
> Largest military base: Eglin Air Force Base
> Service branch with largest presence: Air Force
> Veterans: 12.8% of pop. (36,431)

There are about 284,800 people living in the Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin, Florida, metro area — and 14.3% of them are military members and their families. Military personnel in the area, located on Florida’s panhandle, are exclusively members of the Air Force and assigned to either Hurlburt Field or Eglin Air Force Base.

Eglin AFB, the larger of the two local Air Force installments, has an estimated annual economic impact of $2.75 billion. Hurlburt Field, meanwhile, contributes just over $1 billion to the local economy annually.

Source: SeanPavonePhoto / iStock via Getty Images

10. Columbus, GA-AL
> Military members and their families: 14.6% of pop. (46,785)
> Largest military base: Fort Benning
> Service branch with largest presence: Army
> Veterans: 9.5% of pop. (30,510)

Nearly 15% of Columbus, Georgia’s population are active duty military or their dependents. Military personnel in the metro area are assigned to Fort Benning, one of the largest Army bases in the country. The base, which was established in 1918 to provide basic training for troops fighting in World War I, is still used today to conduct a 10-week basic training course.

The Columbus metro area also has a substantial veteran population. Nearly one in every 10 of the 321,000 people living in the area are former servicemen and servicewomen.

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Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

9. Fairbanks, AK
> Military members and their families: 18.1% of pop. (17,494)
> Largest military base: Fort Jonathan Wainwright
> Service branch with largest presence: Army
> Veterans: 9.7% of pop. (9,402)

The Fairbanks, Alaska, metro area is home to both the Fort Jonathan Wainwright Army Base and the Eielson Air Force Base. The troops assigned to these bases and their dependents total 17,494 — or 18.1% of the total metro area population.

Fort Jonathan Wainwright, the largest of the two bases, and also the largest military base in Alaska by personnel, was originally established in 1939. In addition to over 6,000 enlisted service members, the base employs some 2,200 civilians.

Source: Billy Hathorn / Wikimedia Commons

8. Killeen-Temple, TX
> Military members and their families: 19.6% of pop. (90,238)
> Largest military base: Fort Hood
> Service branch with largest presence: Army
> Veterans: 13.8% of pop. (63,477)

Home to nearly 84,000 servicemen and servicewomen and their families, Fort Hood is the second largest Army base in the United States. Fort Hood, as well as the nearby Goodfellow Air Force Base, account for nearly 20% of the Killeen-Temple, Texas, metro area.

Fort Hood spans more than 200,000 acres and is the only Army base in the United States capable of training two armored divisions. Estimates from office the Texas Comptroller put Fort Hood’s economic impact on the state in 2019 at nearly $30 billion.

Source: DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

7. Clarksville, TN-KY
> Military members and their families: 20.5% of pop. (62,977)
> Largest military base: Fort Campbell
> Service branch with largest presence: Army
> Veterans: 11.1% of pop. (34,115)

Clarksville, Tennessee, is one of only seven metro areas in the United States where more than one in every five residents are active-duty military or a military family member. Another 11.1% of the local population are military veterans.

The large military presence in the metro area is connected to Fort Campbell, which is located in Kentucky, about 15 miles north of downtown Clarksville. The base, which spans 164 square miles and is one of the largest in the world, is home to the 101st Airborne, which is the Army’s only air combat division. Families stationed at the base are served by three different school districts, and child care is offered through five different on-base facilities.

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Source: DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

6. Lawton, OK
> Military members and their families: 20.7% of pop. (26,189)
> Largest military base: Fort Sill
> Service branch with largest presence: Army
> Veterans: 12.5% of pop. (15,817)

There are 126,400 people living in the Lawton, Oklahoma, metro area — and 20.7% of them are active-duty military and their family. An additional 15,800 people, or 12.5% of the local population, are military veterans.

The metro area is home to the Fort Sill Army Base. Spanning 146 square miles in Oklahoma’s Great Plains, the base is the largest field artillery training post in the world. The base’s history goes back to the mid-1800s and is now an economic pillar for the city of Lawton, generating an estimated $2.3 billion in local economic output annually.

Source: DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

5. Fayetteville, NC
> Military members and their families: 21.5% of pop. (113,035)
> Largest military base: Fort Bragg
> Service branch with largest presence: Army
> Veterans: 10.3% of pop. (54,360)

The Fayetteville, North Carolina, metro area is home to Fort Bragg, the largest Army base by personnel in the United States. The area also hosts the Pope Air Force Base. Over 113,000 military personnel and their families are stationed in the metro area, or 21.5% of the total local population.

The base, which spans more than 250 square miles, accounts for about $11 billion in economic activity annually.

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Source: DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

4. Manhattan, KS
> Military members and their families: 25.6% of pop. (33,295)
> Largest military base: Fort Riley
> Service branch with largest presence: Army
> Veterans: 7.5% of pop. (9,832)

More than one-quarter of the Manhattan, Kansas, metro area population are active-duty military or military family members. All of the 33,295 active duty personnel and their family are associated with the Fort Riley Army Base. The base is home to the 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, 3rd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, and the 937th Engineer Group.

As is often the case in metro areas with large military bases, the Manhattan metro area is a popular place for servicemen and servicewomen to retire. Nearly 10,000 Manhattan metro area residents — 7.5% of the population — are veterans of the armed services.

Source: Doug Kerr / Flickr

3. Watertown-Fort Drum, NY
> Military members and their families: 29.1% of pop. (32,011)
> Largest military base: Fort Drum
> Service branch with largest presence: Army
> Veterans: 8.2% of pop. (9,043)

Fort Drum, an Army base located just northeast of Watertown, is by far the largest military installation in New York state. The base, which spans over 100,000 acres, is home to the 10th Mountain Division. More than 32,000 troops and their family members are stationed at the base.

The base is an economic pillar in the Watertown area. In addition to accounting for nearly 30% of the metro area population, it is the largest employer in northern New York. The base’s economic impact on the surrounding region topped $1.3 billion in fiscal 2019.

Source: carolana.com

2. Jacksonville, NC
> Military members and their families: 41.9% of pop. (82,907)
> Largest military base: Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base
> Service branch with largest presence: Marine Corps
> Veterans: 12.6% of pop. (24,893)

Jacksonville, North Carolina, is home to 198,00 people — and about 42% of them are active-duty military service members and their families. Another 25,000 people in the metro area, or 12.6% of the population, are veterans.

The large military presence in the area is due primarily to Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base, where nearly 39,000 active-duty Marines and 25,800 of their dependents are stationed. The base, which is situated along the Atlantic Coast, supports Naval, Coast Guard and Marine operations and is the largest concentration of Marines and sailors in the world.

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Source: Michael Rivera / Wikimedia Commons

1. Hinesville, GA
> Military members and their families: 55.9% of pop. (45,302)
> Largest military base: Fort Stewart
> Service branch with largest presence: Army
> Veterans: 13.5% of pop. (10,902)

Hinesville, Georgia, is the only metro area in the United States where over half the population are active-duty military service members and their family. Of the 81,000 metro area residents, 45,300 are military or military families. Another 10,902 metro area residents are veterans of the armed services.

The Hinesville metro area is home to the Fort Stewart Army Base. Covering 280,000 acres, much of which are used for artillery and gunnery training, Fort Stewart is the largest Army installation east of the Mississippi River. In addition to the troops stationed there, more than 4,000 civilians are employed at the base.

Methodology:

To identify America’s military cities, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the number of active-duty military personnel as a share of the total population at the metropolitan statistical area level.

Data on the number of active-duty servicemen and servicewomen in a metro area came from the 2019 Demographics Report, originally published by Military OneSource, a U.S. Department of Defense contractor. Demographics data was aggregated from the zip-code level to the metropolitan statistical area level. Data on metro area population came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey and are one-year estimates.

We also considered the number of veterans and dependents of active-duty service members at the metro area level. Data on veterans, or civilians who formerly served in a branch of the military but who are no longer enlisted, also came from the ACS. Total number of dependents of military personnel living in a given metro area came from the 2019 Demographics Report.

In addition, we considered metro area-level data for annual Veterans Affairs expenditures from the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics for fiscal year 2019.

 

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