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Military Life in San Antonio

San Antonio is the country’s seventh fastest growing city, yet it has retained a small-town feel.   Friendly locals welcome military families, and the job market is partial to government and defense/security contracting, which ensures employment opportunities for spouses and transitioning service members.  Low cost of living, affordable homes, and the lack of state tax on retirement income are a few financial perks that make San Antonio a top pick for retirement.

The Joint Base San Antonio (JBSA), commanded by the 502nd Air Base Wing, is the largest and most diverse joint base in the Department of Defense (DoD) system.  It expands across 46,539 acres in eleven geographically separated parcels of land with 35 million sq ft of facilities, including the DoD’s largest hospital, the San Antonio Military Medical Center. JBSA trains more students from the (DoD) and has more active runways than any other installation in the US. The folks who belong to JBSA are not only making a difference locally, but their daily missions and training are making an impact nationwide.

JBSA is comprised of four primary locations: 

  1. Fort Sam Houston

  2. Camp Bullis

  3. Randolph Air Force Base

  4. Lackland Air Force Base

Fort Sam Houston

Located right in the middle of San Antonio and commonly referred to as “The Home of Military Medicine,” Fort Sam Houston (FSH) is among the oldest bases of the Army. This base houses the Brooke Army Medical Center and the San Antonio Military Medical Center, which provide medical care to military personnel, veterans, military families, and civilian emergency patients. 

Camp Bullis

Located seventeen miles northwest of San Antonio, Camp Bullis is the largest JBSA installation.  It makes up half of JBSA’s overall land size and is known as the “Crown Jewel” of JBSA.  With 21 firing ranges, simulation facilities, maneuver lands, and other training facilities, Camp Bullis provides base support for all of JBSA’s operational and training requirements.

Randolph Air Force Base

Randolph Air Force Base is on the northeast side of San Antonio.  Home to Air Education Training Command (AETC), Recruiting Service Headquarters, Air Force Personnel Center, and 19th Air Force, this base is the Air Force’s premier pilot training location.  

Lackland Air Force Base

Lackland AFB is located southwest of San Antonio.  This location provides basic training for recruits and trains up to 80,000 US and foreign military students annually. Other training programs are marksmanship, language, dog handling, cybersecurity, intelligence, medical, and security forces skills. The Airman Heritage Museum and the Military Working Dogs Museum are located on Lackland AFB and open to the public with a visitor’s pass.

Housing

A steady real estate market equates to low prices and values that don’t fluctuate. The market is booming with new construction, particularly in the suburbs. Houses in San Antonio are some of the most affordable in the country. 

Commute

San Antonio is a big circle with interstates crisscrossing through it and two “loops” that circle it. There is an inner loop and an outer loop. The inner loop is downtown San Antonio and the city’s urban core. Locations inside the loop offer a more established suburban environment, and neighborhoods tend to be older and more historic. Outside the loop are the more modern suburbs. This is where you’ll find large master-planned, gated communities. The communities outside the loop offer top-notch schools and more space and amenities for families.

Schools

Fort Sam Houston ISD, Lackland ISD, and Randolph Field ISD operate under the jurisdiction of the Texas Education Agency. Students living on the respective JBSA bases may attend these schools, but those who live off base have to apply for a waiver for transfer acceptance.  There are 23 Independent School Districts off-base, and the JBSA School Liaison Office can help families learn about their educational options.