Welcome to the Desert

And just like that, you’re headed to the desert!  Once you’ve gotten over the initial shock and maybe a few tears, you can relax because its not that bad…promise.  Located in the Mojave Desert, Ft Irwin is in between Las Vegas and Los Angeles with a 3 hour drive to either city.  The closest (and very small) town is Barstow which is set right off I-15.  From the highway, you will take the Ft Irwin road exit and enjoy a 40 minute drive through the barren desert until you reach the Painted Rocks – and that’s when you know you’ve reached the National Training Center. 

Each rotational unit paints a rock signifying their completed time at NTC, leaving behind a growing iconic landmark.  Continuing past the rocks, you’ll find the one and only gate on post.  Isolated?  Yes, but the worst place on earth?  Absolutely not.  Full disclosure, it was one of my favorite duty stations so far!  Living on post is a must and provides you with a strong community.  Everyone is in the same boat and if you like seeing familiar places on the daily, Ft Irwin might be right up your alley!

In addition to meeting some amazing life long friends, we were afforded the opportunity to TRAVEL.  While we were only there for 2 years, we showed our kids some once-in-a-lifetime views.  My husband was an OC and the monthly 4 day weekends set us up for travel, even with two school-aged kids!  We made it to 7 National Parks, Legoland, Disneyland, the San Diego Zoo, Vegas, Bearizona, Utah, San Francisco, and Antelope Canyon just to name a few.  While some travel can be expensive, the National Parks are all free and we definitely took advantage of MWR Ticket + Sales Office for discounted tickets.  Overall, Ft. Irwin is an experience to remember….because where else could you live and have wild donkeys and coyotes roaming through housing?!

Mom and baby donkey checking out the park near the housing office.

Arriving On Post

Many people get to Irwin and need to stay at The Landmark Inn while awaiting housing.  While dogs are not permitted in the hotel, they are able to make accommodations if the vet is unable to board your animal.  Call ahead to make arrangements!  If there is no availability at the hotel, On-Base Suites offers lodging too.  While both offer a small kitchenette, some prefer the suites for longer stays.  The RV Park is also a popular option for people coming with travel trailers, campers and RV’s.  Spaces with full hookups can be rented monthly.  Storage is also available.  The RV park is located on Goldstone Rd just past Outdoor Rec and before the horse stables.


On-post housing is provided by The Villages at Ft Irwin.  Be sure to check out Villages at Fort Irwin on FB for updated info and events.  Housing is mostly assigned by rank, date of arrival, and family size.  While standalone houses do exist, there are not a ton of them!  Nearly all of the homes include a fenced backyard.  The community pool is in the center of Sandy Basin, right next to the housing office.  Due to the high demand, housing strictly assigns the number of bedrooms based on age and gender of dependents.  Typically, children 5 years and older cannot share a room with a child of the opposite sex, while 9 years and older qualify for a separate bedroom. Depending on arrival time and neighborhood, the wait for a home can be long. 


  • Colin Powell is the state preschool that welcomes children ages 3 and 4 for part day preschool.  Classes are offered M-Th and students are given either breakfast or lunch, all depending on session time.  The preschool program is through San Bernardino County School Services and more info about registration can be found here.  
  • The CDC also offers a part day preschool option as well as a pre-K Strong Beginnings program for children 4 years old.  Check out the CDC for more info and enrollment.
  • Lewis Elementary School (Grades TK – 2)  Students who turn 5 by September 1st are eligible for kindergarten.  Students who turn 5 between September 2 – February 2 are eligible for transition kindergarten.  
  • Tiefort View Intermediate School  (Grades 3-5) – Located on post in the Crackerjack Flats neighborhood.
  • Fort Irwin Middle School (Grades 6-8) – Located on post between the Sandy Basin and Crackerjack Flats neighborhoods
  • Silver Valley High School (Grades 9-12) – Located off post in Yermo, CA (40 minute commute).

To register for Lewis Elementary, TVIS, FIMS, and SVHS, visit Silver Valley Unified School District
If homeschooling is more your speed, be sure to check out the homeschooling group to share resources and connect with other families!

Donkeys just hanging out in the Sandy Basin neighborhood.

Medical Care

Weed Army Community Hospital is where all Tricare Prime dependents are seen for medical care.  Critical emergencies may be airlifted to Las Vegas or LA.  Referrals for specialized care will be sent off post.  The hospital includes women’s health/OB clinic, children’s care, optometry, orthopedics, behavioral health, outpatient surgery, lab, pharmacy, and a small ER with an urgent care within.  Speaking from personal experience, the orthopedics department is top notch!

*There are dental services for families on post, but staffing, availability, and policies can change.  Many people will go to Barstow for regular visits.  Dr. Robinson, Dr. Chang, and Barstow Friendly Smiles are popular options.

Veterinary Services

There is a vet on post but they are not able to accommodate emergencies.  The office does have boarding but as you can imagine, spaces are limited.  Barstow Animal Hospital next to the Humane Society and Apple Valley Animal Hospital are good resources if you are looking to establish care for a pet off post. 

Places to Eat

Fast food includes Burger King, Popeyes, Pizza Hut, Subway, Starbucks, Taco Bell, Charleys, and Baskin Robbins in the PX food court.  Shockwave (bar/restaurant) has a small menu and good pizza to go.  More sit down options include Sam Adams Brew House, Bama’s BBQ, and Hamby’s Place all located at Epicenter (Building 27).


The CDC offers full and part time child care as well as hourly care.  Space is limited and due to high demand, childcare may be difficult to secure.  FCC home providers are also available for children 18 months and older.  Some FCC providers will also do hourly care.  The School Age Center does offer before and after school care.  For more info, visit MilitaryOneSource.

Events on Post

Keep up to date with all on post events promoted by MWR.  Historically there has been a 4th of July celebration with a fireworks show, activities and food and an Oktoberfest in the fall.  Keep in mind that Blackhorse and Critter Teams within Ops Group will sponsor individual events for families in addition to post wide activities.

Beautiful desert sunset.

Life on Post

While activities on post may not be like other posts you’ve visited, there are activities to keep people busy.  The bowling alley and movie theater can be popular to beat the heat, as well as visiting the splash pad and the housing pool in Sandy Basin.  Younger kiddos can cool off in the indoor play area There are several playgrounds located in all of the neighborhoods and a path up Mt Blackie for those looking for a short hike.  Outdoor rec (located by the RV park) has guided events and hiking as well.  They have a wide range of rentals (kayaks, tents, bounce houses, outdoor equipment etc) and they also bike and stroller tire repair!! 

There are a few gyms on post (including a crossfit gym) and a lap pool for year round lap swimming.  Fort Irwin CYS offers activities for the kids (swim lessons, karate, dance, gymnastics, basketball etc) all of which depend on the staffing on post needed to run these activities.  There is also a teen center, a popular hangout for middle school kids.  The arts and crafts center has paint your own pottery for a minimal cost!  There was an active Roller Derby team when we were there, but then again, many of these activities depend on current interest and enrollment.  The Spouses Club is very active and hosts monthly luncheons and events.  If you’re looking to meet other spouses, this is a great place to start. 


Unfortunately there are not a ton of jobs available in the area.  Some spouses will work on post (see USA jobs for openings) while others will find work from home opportunities.  If you own your own home based business, you will need to get approval to operate while living in housing.  Home based businesses are very popular and generally help build the community and fill specific needs, so be sure to check them out as there is always something new! 

Mt. Blackie

Additional Info

Fort Irwin – Official Page

Fort Irwin Connection – Community Facebook

Fort Irwin – 411 Travel – Travel Facebook Group

Are you headed to Ft. Irwin?  Let us know what you’re most excited about and what stresses you out?

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