Military Life 101

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Commissary, Exchange and MWR

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Military family members enjoy many base privileges including access to the Commissary, Exchange, and Morale Welfare and Recreation (MWR). Here’s some information about those important services:


The Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) operates the military commissaries throughout the world. DeCA Commissaries are grocery stores on military installations that sell food and some household and cleaning products at cost plus a five percent surcharge. Active duty military members, Guard and Reservists, military retirees, 100 percent service-connected disabled veterans and their families are all eligible to use the commissary. To use the commissary authorized shoppers only need to show proper military ID.

Learn how to shop at the commissary by visiting our handy guide.


The exchange services operate department like stores, gas stations, military clothing stores, convenience stores, food courts and liquor stores on military bases around the world.  Unlike the commissary system, goods are not sold at cost. However, they are tax free.

The exchange also operates facilities at overseas contingency sites and stateside emergency response areas. Dividends earned by the exchange support morale, welfare and recreation programs at Army, Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy installations.  


Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) activities include arts and crafts facilities, bowling centers, golf courses, libraries, pools, outdoor recreation, recreation centers, youth centers activities and recreation membership clubs. In most instances, Guard and Reserve members and their dependents are entitled to use the same facilities.

Local MWR programs may schedule local athletic events or subsidized adventure trips. For a full menu of what your local MWR program offers, visit the office on your installation.

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