The complete guide to military bases

Jessica Evans Avatar
military bases
NORFOLK, Virginia – Sailors and Marines man the rails as the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) departs Naval Station Norfolk March 16, 2022. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jesse Schwab)

Wondering about U.S. military bases? Or maybe you have questions about the largest U.S. military base (It’s Fort Bragg for population and Fort Bliss for size!). Maybe you’re wondering about the U.S. military bases around the world. Well, then this guide is for you! We’ll cover everything from how many bases are in the United States to what kind of installations we have in the rest of the world, too. 

America’s Military Installations

First, a note on the word installation. In military jargon, that can mean anything from a base to a camp, post, station, or yard. Basically, it’s anything that falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of Defense. 

Bases in CONUS – that’s military parlance for the Continental United States – are all over the country. In fact, America operates a global network of installations and is the largest operator of military bases around the world. We even have a base in every continent. Speaking of, here are the best 4 installations for history buffs.

As far as the largest OCONUS (Outside the Continental United States) military base, that honor goes to Ramstein Germany. In fact, it’s often called “Little America” by the Airmen and families stationed there. 

The Pentagon is pretty mum about the total number of installations we own and operate. That makes sense, given the sensitive nature of what our service members need to do. The rough numbers suggest we have“around” 5,000 in the world, with “about” 500 of them being overseas. 

ramstein air base
Air traffic control tower at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, July 15, 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John R. Wright)

Bases in the United States 

Despite there being so many bases in America, every state in our country doesn’t have its own military installation. Coastal states like California and Florida have a lot of bases. That makes sense, since coastal ports are easy to enter into and leave from. 

On the coasts, expect to find a lot of Navy and Marine Corps installations. 

In the middle of the country, like in Wyoming and Nebraska, you’ll also find a lot of Air Force installations. That’s because those wide open skies make great places for aerial training.

Can you guess which state has the most military bases? 

Here’s how the top ranking states stack up. 

New Hampshire has the fewest with just one installation. Thanks for being there, Pease Air National Guard

Texas has a whopping 28; Virginia has 26. California wins big for the military with a whopping 48 installations. 

This count included Coast Guard and depot stations, as they’re all owned by the DoD.  

medal of honor at camp lejeune
The 18th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, Ronald L. Green, hosts an evening parade at Marine Barracks Washington, D.C., August 5, 2016. The parade honored Marine Corps recipients of the Medal of Honor. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Melissa Marnell, Office of the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps/Released)

What to Expect at a Military Installation

If you’re heading to a military installation for the first time, here’s what you can expect.

When you arrive, go directly to the Visitor Control Center. You’ll need an ID so the installation can verify your identity. You’ll need to get a visitor’s pass from the Visitor Control Center. Also, service members might search your vehicle. Don’t be alarmed! It’s pretty typical.

If you’re on an installation during the time the flag is raised or lowered for the day, you need to stop what you’re doing. That means if you’re driving, you get out of your car and face the sound of the music. If you’re walking, running, or doing anything outside, stop and turn toward the music. 

Military buildings are numbered to help you get around. Getting lost is totally part of being on an installation – especially for the first time! Anyone will be glad to help you.

Sergeant Majors DO NOT like when you walk on their grass. If you see a parade field and consider cutting through it, don’t. 

Here’s a more in-depth overview of what to expect at an installation.  

naval base
Naval Base San Diego’s (NBSD) Sailor of the Year, Yeoman First Class (SW/AW) Amy Osieck, is the ceremonial first car after the ribbon cutting ceremony for NBSD’s Main Gate, the Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz gate. (U.S. Navy photo by Maile Baca, Naval Base San Diego Public Affairs/Released)

Frequently Asked Questions

How many US military bases are there?

As we said up top, the Pentagon shies away from releasing those numbers. The accepted estimate is around 5,000 worldwide. 

What is the most popular military base?

That depends on what you want out of an installation and really, no matter where you are, chances are you’ll find something to love. 

What states have military bases?

Almost all states have bases in America! 

What is the biggest military base in the US?

Ft. Bragg is the clear winner for this accolade. It’s got the largest population. Next up is Ft. Campbell. Its population is only a few thousand from Bragg’s! Read more about Ft. Bragg in our guide here.