Military Life Resources

How to make the most of military Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs

During dwell time or deployments, Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) program resources help provide stability and assistance when needed.
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U.S. Navy Aviation Boatswain’s Mate 3rd Class Devyn Leonardo, center, from Ontario, California, sits with his family during a Norfolk Tides baseball game at Harbor Park, for a Morale, Welfare and Recreation sponsored event, in Norfolk, Virginia, June 17, 2021. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Curtis Burdick)

Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) programs have been an essential part of military life for decades. This programming provides important benefits for service members and their families. During dwell time or deployments, MWR resources help provide stability and assistance when needed.

Why it’s important

One of the most significant benefits of MWR programs is their positive impact on service members’ morale. Military life can be challenging, with long deployments, frequent relocations, and job stress. MWR programs help break up the monotony and provide a much-needed break from the rigors of military life. By providing fun and engaging activities these programs can help service members and their families build camaraderie and boost morale.

MWR programs also provide crucial support for military families. These programs offer resources like counseling, childcare, and education programs to help military families navigate their unique challenges. It’s no secret mil fams are constantly on the move. Add to that the stress of deployments and resettling, life can feel hectic and unsettled. MWR programs provide resources to help families cope with these challenges and stay connected, even when separated by distance.

Another significant benefit is that they can help service members develop skills. For example, MWR programs may offer classes like financial management, cooking or job training.

MWR computers
The computer lab set up in the Morale Welfare and Recreation room at Skwierzyna base camp by the 652nd Regional Support Group Mayor’s Cell team. It is one of numerous improvements made b y the team to the base camp. (U.S. Army Reserve photo by Maj. Olha Vandergriff, 652nd Regional Support Group)

History of MWR

The history of MWR programs in the military dates back to World War I. That earliest iteration was spearheaded by the YMCA. It helped provide recreation and support services to soldiers. During World War II, the USO (United Service Organizations) provided similar services to troops, including entertainment and refreshments. In the 1950s, the military established its own MWR programs. That’s because the DoD recognized the importance of providing recreational and support services to service members and their families.

Since then, MWR programs have continued to evolve and expand. Today, programs are an integral part of military life and continue to play a vital role in supporting the well-being and quality of life of military personnel and their families.

Activities usually take place at military bases. Every branch of the military has its own type of MRW. Almost all activities are free or discounted for eligible members.

Outdoor Activities

Outdoor activities are another important component of MWR programming. Many military installations offer a range of outdoor activities, from hiking and camping to fishing and hunting. These activities provide service members and their families with a chance to enjoy the great outdoors and connect with nature, which can be especially beneficial for those who have spent significant time in a city or suburban environment. It’s important to note that the specific outdoor activities available will vary depending on the location and climate of each installation, as well as other factors like available funding and staffing. It’s always a good idea to research the MWR programming available and take advantage of the activities that best fit your family’s interests. 

MWR basketball
Sailors aboard the first-in-class aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), participate in a 3 on 3 basketball tournament in the hangar bay, March 19, 2023. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Darien G. Kenney)

Indoor MWR activities

MWR programs offer a variety of indoor activities designed to promote the well-being and quality of life of military personnel and their families. From fitness centers and classes to entertainment and leisure activities, MWR offers a diverse range of options for indoor recreation. Some installations may also have movie theaters, game rooms, and craft centers. It’s important to note that not all MWR programs offer the same activities. Each installation has its unique set of resources and programs. However, regardless of the specific offerings at a particular location, programs are designed to provide a safe, supportive environment for military families to relax and have fun indoors.

MWR also offers discount hotel rates, which can make your next PCS a breeze and help cut costs for your family road trip.

For more information on the benefits of Morale, Welfare & Recreation, visit the military resources website.