Between the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Marines and Air Force, the United States not only maintains the best and brightest active duty armed forces brigade in the world, it’s also home to one of the very largest. There are only a small handful of countries whose fighting forces exceed 1 million, and the United States is one of them, deployed in countries across the globe, including South Korea, Afghanistan, Japan, Italy, Germany and Saudi Arabia.
It raises the question: Which countries maintain the largest military bases in the world? The answer may surprise you. Before we get into the specifics, however, we first have to define what it means to be amongst the largest military bases in the world.
What does it mean to be the largest military base?
There are several ways to measure size, particularly when it comes to demographics and geographic-related topics. For example, if we were to measure the biggest country in the world by population, China holds the top spot at more than 1.39 billion, followed by India (1.3 billion) and the United States (330 million), according to the most recent statistics available from the Census Bureau. From a land area perspective, however, Russia is far and away the largest, at over 6 million square miles. Canada is the second biggest nation in area (9.9 million square miles kilometers) and the United States (9.8 million square kilometers) sits in third, based on estimates from Statista.
To determine the world’s largest military bases, we go by population. Since the U.S. is third in global population, you may suspect that China and India have the biggest installations. Think again.
For determining the world’s largest military bases, we’ll go by population. Given the fact that the U.S. is in a distant third in population, you may suspect that China and India have the biggest installations.
1. Fort Bragg
Based in North Carolina and just west of the city of Fayetteville, Fort Bragg is not only the largest Army base in overall population, but it’s also the biggest military base overall, when including all five of the military branches. Hosting the 82nd Airborne Division of the United States Army, Fort Bragg is the home away from home for 57,000 military personnel, 11,000 civilian employees and 23,000 military family members, according to data at the fort’s official website. That approximate figure — 57,000 — makes Fort Bragg home to roughly 10% of all Army forces. It’s little wonder why Fort Bragg is affectionately described as “the center of the military universe.” From a perspective of how many people the fort can support, Fort Bragg is capable of hosting 260,000 people overall.
In terms of overall land area, Fort Bragg is no pushover either. The installation covers around 500 square miles, which is the equivalent of 163,000 acres. Nearly 90% of that total — 146,000 acres — is dedicated to training. Soldiers have used the grounds to obtain necessary skill sets for use in war battlefields, which over the years have included World War I, World War II, Vietnam War and numerous other missions, such as Operation Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn.
2. Fort Campbell
Located squarely on the shared border between Kentucky and Tennessee is Fort Campbell. Established in 1941 and named after Army Brigade General William Bowen Campbell, this installation is also steeped in history and is home turf to the 101st Airborne Division of the Army. Over the years, its population has grown by leaps and bounds. Based on the most recent figures available from the website Military Installations, Fort Campbell has an active duty military population of 26,587 soldiers and nearly double that amount in overall family members (50,812). Civilians number in the vicinity of 6,500 and military retirees total 70,445.
Capable of supporting over 249,580 people, Fort Campbell is the second-largest military base in the world. However, it’s estimated that two-thirds of assigned soldiers live off-site in neighboring counties, such as Christian County in Kentucky and Stewart County in the Volunteer State.
At some point, Fort Campbell holds the potential to overtake Fort Bragg in population. According to The Associated Press, the Army is looking to add 144 three- and four-bedroom homes over the next five years and will renovate an additional 170 properties.
Visit the website for additional information, and our blog for the best activities around Fort Campbell.
3. Fort Hood
Built one year after Fort Campbell, Fort Hood is located in Killeen, Texas, roughly 60 miles to the north of Austin. Fort Hood covers a wide space and is actually larger than Fort Bragg, at roughly 214,968 acres. That’s the equivalent of 340 square miles. Its footprint is so sizable that it straddles two counties (Bell County and Coryell County). It is also the only post in the United States that can station and train two full armored divisions.
There’s conflicting information as to where Fort Hood stacks up relative to other military bases in the world. From a perspective of active-duty soldiers, there’s a grand total of 36,329 service members who live here, according to Military Installations. This would put it in second place, behind Fort Bragg. But in the overall population, Fort Hood’s service members, family and civilians surpass 500,000, making it the largest military base as far as what it’s capable of hosting.
4. Lewis-McChord Joint Base
Home of I Corps and the 62nd Airlift Wing, Joint Base Lewis-McChord is one of the newest installations in the United States, melding Fort Lewis and McChord in October 2010. Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force Bases have been around for a while though, established in 1917 and 1947, respectively.
The consolidation of these installations has allowed for more people to live in what’s described as the Department of Defense’s “premier military installation on the West Coast.” According to its website, 40,000 active duty service members, 60,000 family members and 15,000 civilian and contract employees live in Lewis-McChord, an excess of six figures overall. In area, Lewis-McChord is actually bigger than even Fort Bragg at 647 square miles. The lion’s share of that area is taken up by the Yakima Training Center.
5. Fort Benning
Fort Benning is yet another installation situated in more than one state, thanks to its massive size at 182,000+ acres. While the fort’s physical address is in Georgia, its territory extends into Alabama. Much like the aforementioned installations, it’s an Army base and has served this branch of the military since 1918.
In population, Fort Benning is the home away from home for around 107,600 people, according to estimates at the installation’s website. This includes 3,250 civilian employees, 14,100 off-post active duty, 13,250 career retired and 27,436 who are on active duty.
Fort Benning is an ideal base to raise a family and has a variety of health care and educational services. Here’s a digital download for more information on life at Fort Benning. For more ideas on things to do in the area, check out our blog.
As you can see, five of the top 10 largest military bases in the world are all located here in the United States. But there are quite a few overseas that are sizable as well. The following five are just a few of them, starting with what is believed to be the biggest.
6. Camp Humphreys
Located in Pyeongtaek, about 45 miles south of Seoul, South Korea’s capital city, is Camp Humphreys. The site of a massive expansion project that began over 10 years ago, and cost almost $11 billion, according to Time Magazine, Camp Humphreys is the United States’ largest overseas military base outside of the contiguous 48 states. Come 2022, it’s anticipated to be the home away from home for approximately 45,000 service members, as well as their families and civilian contractors.
The United States has maintained a presence in South Korea since the signing of the Mutual Defense Treaty of 1953, which signaled the official end to the Korean War. Since the Korean War, South Korea and the United States have maintained an excellent ongoing relationship.
In terms of the sites and attractions at Camp Humphreys, around 650 buildings are either being built or renovated, including several churches, four schools, an exercise facility and an 18-hole golf course. It covers around 1,210 acres of land, but when the project is completed, it will be between 2,328 acres and 3,538 acres, roughly the size of the central portion of Washington, D.C.
As with the majority of the other forts and installations mentioned above, Camp Humphrey’s is an Army base, although it did serve as a station for the Marines during the Korean War.
7. Thule Air Base
Located in Greenland, around 930 miles south of the North Pole, Thule (pronounced “two-lee”) Air Base is the United States’ northernmost military base. It’s also the highest port in terms of global positioning, with 3,000 flights taking off from Thule Air Base every year, according to MilitaryBases.com.
Opening to military use during World War II, Thule Air Base is maintained by the Air Force and hosts the 21st Space Wing, 721st Support Group and 821st Air Base Group. While there are U.S. service members who live here, the harsh climate makes it an inhospitable locale for military families. Temperatures can reach the negative digits and have even gone as low as negative 47 according to Military One Source.
What Thule Air Base lacks in population, it makes up for in land area. It covers slightly over 233,000 acres, much of which is undeveloped. In fact, according to Business Insider, the nearest village to Thule Air Base, Qaanaaq, is over 65 miles away.
Here’s a packet of information that contains other details on what to expect at Thule Air Base.
8. Camp Fuji
Once used as a training ground for samurai warriors, Camp Fuji is among the oldest military installations in the world. Roughly two hours from Tokyo on the island of Honshu, this installation is located at the base of Mount Fuji — hence the name — and is primarily run by the United State Marine Corps. However, it’s also used by the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force and hosts the Japanese National Youth Center.
Over the years, it’s received a number of renovations and updates, including additional barracks, maintenance buildings, a medical clinic and a post office. These modernizations have made it a more enjoyable installation for the military members and civilians who live here. The base spans nearly 33,400 acres and a training facility that is over 300 acres.
Check out the website for any additional information you’re looking for about Camp Fuji.
9. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay
Found off the far southern coast of the United States in Cuba is the Naval Station Guantanamo Bay. Also known as Gitmo, Guantanamo Bay Naval Base has been leased by the United States for over 120 years, dating back to 1903. Since then, it’s provided the Navy with a variety of uses, including fleet training, migrant operations, humanitarian relief, disaster assistance and has served as a detention center. As stated on its website, Gitmo “remains the forward, ready and irreplaceable U.S. seapower platform in the Caribbean” and provides decision-makers with an outlet for interagency operations when and if they’re needed.
Part of what makes it a major resource for the United States military is its size. It’s over 28,800 acres in overall land area and hosts around 6,000 people, including civilians and military members.
Here is the website for more information on what it’s like to be stationed at Gitmo.
10. Camp Hansen
Last but not least is Camp Hansen. Located on the northern tip of Okinawa, Camp Hansen is another fort maintained by the Marine Corps and is one of several military bases located on the Japanese prefecture. In fact, over 60% of the U.S. military bases that are in Japan are actually on Okinawa Island, totaling 31 in all, according to The Diplomat.
Similar to Camp Fuji, Camp Hansen is a shared fort that both U.S. and Japan’s troops use throughout the year, primarily for training purposes. Some of these exercises involve the use of live fire.
Named in honor of Dale Hansen, who took part in the Battle of Okinawa during World War II, Camp Hansen has hosted several regiments and battalions over the years, including the 3rd Law Enforcement Battalion, 3rd Intelligence Battalion, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and 9th Engineer Support Battalion. It houses a few thousand Marine service members but is growing. As 24/7 Wall Street reported, at least 100 buildings are due to be constructed in an effort to consolidate existing military facilities. In land area, it’s north of 12,000 acres.
Here’s some biographical information on the commanders that currently serve at Camp Hansen as well as contact details.
Because of high turnover, it’s difficult to get a 100% accurate read on the active-duty population of these overseas bases, but these facts and figures should hopefully give you a better idea of just how big the United States military is and the variety of places military members are found far and wide.
At Omni Financial, we may not have a worldwide presence just yet, but our services are truly world-class. For over 50 years, we’ve provided active duty and career retired service members with personal loans that they can use for any financial need that they have. And we’ve provided these loans to military members wherever they are, be it here in the States or abroad. We’re conveniently located near several of the forts mentioned above, including Fort Hood in Kileen, Texas and a short distance from Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia. We’re ready to serve you — no matter where you are.
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