You’ve packed your bags, said your goodbyes and hit the road. Next stop: Fort Benning.
Finding a safe home for your family, transitioning your children into different schools and learning the ins and outs of a new city are just a few of the issues to deal with as you prepare for your next permanent change of station move (PCS).
If you’re in the U.S. Army, there’s a good chance you may spend time at Fort Benning. Fort Benning supports more than 120,000 active-duty military — along with family members, retirees and civilian employees — on a daily basis.
Fort Benning first opened in 1918 as the Home of the Infantry. Future Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in World War II and two-term U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower provided basic training for World War I units at this base.
Today, Fort Benning is home to the United States Army Maneuver Center of Excellence, the United States Army Armor School, the United States Army Infantry School, the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, elements of the 75th Ranger Regiment, the 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division and many other additional tenant units.
Let’s face it, this place is pretty busy.
Columbus, Georgia: Your new home away from home.
If you’re looking for action outside the base, you don’t have to go too far. Fort Benning sits right outside of Columbus, Georgia’s second-largest city. Columbus lies in the heart of Muscogee County, spans over 220 square miles and is home to over 200,000 people.
Columbus is home to the Chattahoochee RiverWalk, National Infantry Museum, National Civil War Naval Museum at Port Columbus and the original Coca Cola formula that was created in the 1860s.
One thing that we’ve noticed is that despite the size of Columbus and the importance of Fort Benning, it can be difficult to find some basic info about life and work the base. We’ve gathered seven need-to-knows to make your transition to Columbus and Fort Benning life a little easier.
7 Things You Need to Know About Fort Benning Life
1. The Villages of Benning offers on-post convenience with off-post luxuries.
When you’re in the U.S. Army, you are awarded a basic allowance for housing. You can use this allowance on one of two options: living on-post or renting/buying off-post.
For those wanting to live on-post, The Villages of Benning are a great option. In addition to updated newly -built homes, the facility comes complete with fitness and event centers, playgrounds, pools and more to keep your family entertained while close to your work.
If you’re looking to move to an off-post location that offers a little more distance and privacy, there are resources, such as FortBenningHousing.com and militarybyowner.com, available to help with the search.
A PCS move can get pricy, so remember that you may be eligible for reimbursement. Take a look at the Defense Finance and Accounting Service regulations to understand what guidelines apply.
2. Your children can attend school right on base.
If you’re relocating to Fort Benning with your family, one major question has probably crossed your mind: where will your children go to school?
The U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity, one of two federally-operated school systems, is responsible for overseeing educational programs that directly serve families on the Fort Benning post.
If your children live on post, there are six elementary schools and one middle school that they can enroll in. They are:
- Dexter Elementary
- Loyd Elementary
- McBride Elementary
- Stowers Elementary
- White Elementary
- Wilson Elementary
- Faith Middle
Students who don’t live on post, and high school students grades 9-12, are able to attend local county schools. These include:
- Muscogee County Schools
- Chattahoochee County Schools
- Russell County Schools
- Lee County Schools
In addition, the Fort Benning Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation provides education services, leisure activities and family assistance to those who serve the post.
3. Columbus is full of historical sites and modern entertainment.
Combining its rich history and new venues with southern hospitality, the city of Columbus offers diverse entertainment. When you get there, check out these sites:
- The Coca-Cola Space Science Center, located at Columbus State University, offers simulated space missions, the Mead Observatory for astronomical viewing, hands-on learning exhibits and shows in the Omnisphere Theatre.
- The 190,000 square-foot National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center, located where Columbus meets Fort Benning, is the only museum in the country dedicated to the American Infantryman throughout history.
- RiverCenter for the Performing Arts, positioned in the heart of Historic Uptown Columbus, is the center of the entertainment district. It hosts a variety of artists like internationally renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma, Broadway shows like Cats and Chicago and local performers.
After visiting these sites, make sure to grab dinner at some of the local’s favorite restaurants, such as the Cannon Brewpub, Mellow Mushroom or Houlihan’s.
For more local attractions and information on the best dining options, visit the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau’s website, which includes an up-to-date leisure blog.
4. Public transportation is available.
As Columbus continues to grow, so does its public transportation system. The Metra, the city’s bus system, travels throughout the area and runs straight through Fort Benning (route 4!). In addition, many local taxi companies are contracted with the post, which allows them to provide cheaper fare to post residents.
If you’re planning an out-of-town vacation or visit, Groome Transportation provides shuttles from Fort Benning to the Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport seven days a week.
5. Fort Benning life is warm.
With summer high temperatures of 91 degrees, Fort Benning can get pretty hot. It’s no wonder Benning residents enjoy their outside activities:
- The Chattahoochee RiverWalk is an outdoor 15-mile linear park that follows the Chattahoochee River, a historic landmark where visitors can fish, boat and ski in the waters and walk, cycle and skate along the park.
- Near the Chattahoochee River is Oxbow Meadows, a hardwood wetland that hosts an environmental learning center. Nature-lovers can visit the site for free, where they can hike along trails and explore native wildlife. The learning center also offers hands-on lessons about the history of the area.
- The Whitewater Express offers an opportunity for people to raft on the Chattahoochee River, with rapids up to 13,000 cubic feet per second in volume (in comparison, rapids on the Ocoee River can reach up to 1,100 cubic feet per second in volume!).
“Fort Benning holds the longest urban whitewater course in the world!” exclaims Allee Lawson, digital media manager at the National Infantry Museum Foundation in Fort Benning. “The whitewater course runs 2.5 miles long through Columbus and brings visitors from all over the United States.”
6. Fort Benning life can seem…pretty normal.
Because of its large size, Fort Benning mirrors any self-sustaining American city. In addition to its schools, the base also has a grocery store, hospital, dental facility, two libraries, three swimming pools, a shopping mall and a variety of recreational complexes. It even has its own fire and police departments!
Fort Benning also hosts a chapter of Team Red, White and Blue — an organization committed to connecting veterans and providing community members with physical and social engagement.
“Team RWB enriches lives of veterans and connects them to their community with free activities and events,” Lou Nemec, Team RWB’s veteran ambassador program director, says. “Joining is free for all current active military, veterans and even civilians who are interested. It is a great way to connect with other members, whether they are in the military or not. There are over 130 chapters, including Ft. Benning, and over 70,000 members.”
7. You’ll have access to self-storage.
While packing, you may realize you need to rent self storage to store your family’s belongings. Don’t worry though — if you’re looking to store items temporarily, the government will even reimburse you for 60 days of self storage.
Whether you’re looking only to store items during your move or long-term, Life Storage has four locations in Columbus on Williams Road, Miller Road, Armour Road and Amber Road that offer climate-controlled storage units. There are also storage facility options in Phenix City, in the bordering state of Alabama.
If your family is moving because of the military, you have enough things on your mind — storage should not be one of them.
Life Storage is proud to serve our troops! If you’re looking for storage options during your move, let us help. Visit our website and check out our storage space estimator. If you have any questions about military-related storage, feel free to leave them in the comments section below, contact us at 1-800-242-1715 or tweet us@LifeStorage.
Photos from TripAdvisor and The National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center.