Getting A Job On A Military Base

There are too many job opportunities on military bases to name-everything from typical fast food jobs to high-paying Civil Service positions. The kinds of employment opportunities open include what are called “appropriated fund” positions that are funded via yearly congressional budgets, and “nonappropriated fund” jobs which are paid by other agencies are not specifically listed in a congressional budget.

U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Delia Marchick
USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Delia Marchick.

Civil Service jobs would fall under “appropriated fund” work, and a job opening at an on-base shop or movie theater run by AAFES are good examples of “non-appropriated fund” positions.

That distinction may be unimportant to some, but when you begin applying for on-base jobs you will see phrases like “appropriated fund position” or “nonappropriated fund position” listed prominently in the job description-it’s good to know what these terms mean to avoid confusion at application time. Both types of jobs are available to qualified applicants at military bases stateside and overseas.

Job applications on military bases are not collected in a centralized fashion-you don’t apply via a central office, or use a standardized form. In the case of appropriated fund Civil Service jobs, testing may be required. Some on-base jobs are listed through typical “apply here” websites including or Others may be listed on Still others may be listed locally via base communications, bulletin boards, official or unofficial web pages, etc.

When you apply for a job on a military base, you may be asked for information about your “sponsor”. This is a question asked when military dependents or spouses are applying for on-base work. “Who’s your sponsor” basically means a request for the name of the currently serving military member in the family assigned to that particular base. That question won’t apply to all applicants, and can be a source of confusion to those not familiar with the custom.

Spouses and dependents of those who are assigned to the base they want to work at may find local hiring incentives offered that aren’t available to those who are simply looking for work but aren’t related to someone assigned to the base. That’s not always true, but when it is true there may be an advantage for those competing for a specific job.

Some jobs may require a security clearance. That isn’t as much of an issue as you might think-in the past most military members have been required to have a “Secret” level security clearance at a minimum. In some cases, even the most basic types of jobs may require this depending on the nature of the military installation. A job as a coffee vendor at the Pentagon may require the kind of background check you would never be asked to submit to as an employee at the local cafe.

But these practices are, in many cases, formalities. If you are asked to consent to a background check, be ready to answer questions that might require you to do a bit of preparation. Do you remember your first street address? The whereabouts of an ex-spouse? Brushing up on your personal history can help in such cases.

In a future article, we’ll look at some of the specific opportunities for on-base employment out there-including some that aren’t as well-known such as teaching gigs, counselor jobs, and even librarian work.

About The AuthorJoe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News

Military Spouse Employment Preference

photo/Senior Airman Nicole Sikorski
USAF photo by Senior Airman Nicole Sikorski.

Military spouses face unique employment challenges. Depending on the military member’s career choices, spouses may have the luxury of settling in one area for many years, or the challenge of relocating once every three years or sooner. Holding down a job in such conditions can be difficult, but there is help from the military in the form of hiring preference for spouses who seek certain types of on-base employment.

Best of all, spouse hiring preference includes help in getting Department of Defense civilian jobs. That means career choices aren’t limited to AAFES jobs, openings with the base Morale, Welfare, and Recreation department, or simple entry-level hiring.

Spouse preference extends to jobs available in “appropriated fund” and “non-appropriated fund” positions, and you may find that GS-rated jobs are available all the way up to GS-15 ratings.

But what does a spouse need in order to qualify and apply for preference?

According to the official site for the Department of Defense’s Military One Source, those who are eligible will meet the following criteria:

  • The spouse of an active-duty service member (including Coast Guard or full-time National Guard)
  • Moving with your spouse to a new duty station.
  • Married before your spouse or partner’s reporting date.
  • Applying for a position within commuting distance of your spouse or partner’s new duty station.
  • Ranked among the best-qualified candidates for the position.

Applicants should choose carefully when applying for and accepting employment using military spouse preference because you can only use that preference once per duty station.

According to Military One Source, “If you accept a continuing position — selections made without a time limitation and requiring a fixed work schedule — you can use your military spouse preference only once at each new duty station.”

However, applicants will not “use up” spouse preference under the following circumstances:

…if you accept a non-continuing position, which doesn’t have a time limitation and a fixed work schedule requirement. These include temporary, flexible, or permanent positions with an intermittent schedule.

Applying for spouse preference overseas has additional requirements, we will cover them in a separate article.

About The AuthorJoe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News

Military & Spouse Employment At Military Bases

Joining the military means earning access to a wide range of benefits. Some of those are quite well-known, but others aren’t so obvious and can easily get overlooked. Some benefits are “official” programs made available from the Department of Veterans Affairs or the Department of Defense, but others are less formal and made available either privately (such as military preference hiring) or publicly (discounted education, training, or career change help).

For military members, there are some not-so-obvious employment benefits and advantages to consider. When you join the Armed Forces, complete basic training and career field training (in a formal school or on-the-job), your first military duty station could provide the opportunity to earn additional income. How?

There are often opportunities for entry-level part-time employment via the Army & Air Force Exchange Service, better known as AAFES, which operates retail establishments on military bases. These establishments are basically the AAFES version of a “big box” retailer, known as The Exchange.

U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communications Specialist 3rd Class Justin Pacheco
U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communications Specialist 3rd Class Justin Pacheco.

AAFES is only one retailer that operates on military installations, but it’s the most obvious choice for many in uniform who seek additional employment outside their military career field work.

Be aware that military chain-of-command approval may be required to accept “off-duty employment”, and those procedures will vary from command to command.

Circumstances play a big part in a military member’s decision to work at The Exchange or any other on-base retail establishment. Some find that their first overseas assignment turns into an opportunity to explore additional income opportunities. Those at remote assignments, “hardship tours”, or other duty that takes the military member away from family and friends may find that the part-time job is a good way to pass the time and save added funds.

AAFES isn’t the only on-base retailer that may offer entry-level or higher employment opportunities. The Defense Commissary Agency, which runs grocery stores on base, may also have positions available. Commissary operations are largely overseas, but some stateside bases (Lackland Air Force Base in Texas is a good example) also operate commissaries. There are also jobs available via the Department of Defense’s Morale, Welfare, and Recreation program (MWR), which operates in some form on many bases stateside and overseas.

Who are these employment opportunities good for? We started this article focusing on currently serving military members who may be in need of side income or who just want to use employment as a constructive way to pass the time, but the truth is that veterans, retirees, and military spouses/dependents are also eligible to apply for many of the jobs offered by AAFES, MWR, or the Defense Commissary Agency.

All applicants will need to provide standard job application data, but for some jobs additional information may be required such as the job seeker’s military status, or status as a dependent or spouse. Overseas jobs for military dependents and spouses may require a copy of the military member’s orders or other documentation unique to applying for an overseas job that is technically located on U.S. government property.

About The AuthorJoe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News

Veterans’ Preference Hiring: Military Dependents

The A&FRC is available to answer questions and assist Veterans as well as Military Spouses.
The A&FRC is available to answer questions and assist Veterans as well as Military Spouses.

Qualifying military members are allowed to apply for veterans’ hiring preference points for Civil Service or Federal jobs. State and local agencies may also offer hiring preference depending on a variety of factors. But what about military spouses, dependents, or other relatives? Is there any consideration for these applicants when it comes to veterans’ preference points?

For certain types of employment, the answer depends on the state. Illinois Civil Service jobs pre-test screenings include a request form veterans can use to apply for their preference points. That form includes a section for the “Parent of an unmarried veteran who suffered a service-connected death or service-connected disability that disqualifies the veteran from civil service employment”.

There’s also a section on this form for “Surviving un-remarried spouse of a veteran who suffered a service-connect ed death or service- connected disability that disqualifies the veteran from civil service employment.”

You may find the application process varies depending on the state you’re in, but in general if you meet one of the above circumstances, you may find a distinct advantage in taking the time to apply for this type of veterans’ preference.

For Federal hiring, the The United States Office of Personnel Management official site includes information for widows, spouses, and mothers of disabled veterans who want to claim veteran preference hiring points.

Under the “Spouses and Mothers” section, applicants are instructed to “Submit an official statement, dated within the last 12 months, from the Department of Veterans Affairs or a branch of the Armed Forces, certifying the following:

  • The veteran has a service connected disability
  • The percentage and nature of the service connected disability
  • A notation as to whether or not the veteran is currently rated as unemployable due to the service connected disability, and,
  • A notation as to whether the service connected disability is rated as permanent and total.”

Widows are required to provide the following information:

“The official notice of death occurring under honorable conditions if service member was on active military duty at the time of death” or “The death certificate if the death occurred while not on active military duty”

For Federal hiring, applicants will be instructed where to send documentation and related paperwork if not included in the original submission of job application data. You can learn more about the entire process via a downloadable .PDF form available from the Department of Defense official site.


About The AuthorJoe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News

Veterans’ Preference Hiring: What You Need To Know

Veterans’ preference points are a distinct advantage of being a veteran of the United States Military. But using “preference points” isn’t standardized, and depending on the type of job you seek, you may encounter different requirements, standards, and regulations on how and when you may claim veteran’s preference when competing for a job.

For example, when taking a Civil Service exam, qualifying veterans may be awarded additional test scoring points on a given test. This practice may vary depending on the state you’re in, the type of exam you’re taking, or other factors.

A good example: those applying for civil service jobs with the University of Illinois (U of I) would be awarded preference points based on the following criteria:

Preparing for transition from the military
USAF photo illustration by Justin Connaher

Veterans with a service-connected disability who were separated from service under honorable conditions…Purple Heart recipients…Veterans who served, or members of the National Guard or Reserves who were activated, during a period of hostility…

That’s a direct quote from the U of I Careers page on the university’s official site. Preference points added to your score on the Civil Service exam can be quite helpful, especially for hiring where the decisions are made with a specific emphasis on the exam scores

But what about Federal hiring? The United States Office of Personnel Management official site has this to say about applying for a federal job using veterans’ preference points:

In general, veterans’ preference eligibility is based on dates of active duty service, receipt of a campaign badge, Purple Heart, or a service-connected disability. Only veterans discharged or released from active duty in the armed forces under honorable conditions (honorable or general discharge) are eligible for veterans’ preference.

Those interested in finding out whether they are eligible for veterans’ preference points for federal jobs should explore the online Veterans’ Preference Advisor.

This resource will walk users through a series of questions designed to help determine eligibility for hiring preference points for federal jobs.

State and local hiring practices will vary, and members of the National Guard or Reserves may need additional documentation of active duty service times and current military commitment.

About The AuthorJoe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News