Your Name (if you would like it to appear): Amber Vandrey
Base Location: El Paso, Texas
How long have you been here? (give years please, ex. 2003-present) 1993-present (I grew up here and then married a soldier I met here)
What is housing like? On-post? (waiting list, conditions, etc.) Off-post? Any areas to stay away from? Average price to rent or buy? They are renovating the houses at Fort Bliss. The older on and off post housing are being torn down and replaced with new homes. The officers houses are very nice and spacious, as well as several of the enlisted soldiers housing off post. The waiting list is supposedly 6 months, but it is definitely a lot longer. Renting houses is very cheap as the cost of living is very low. The Brand new barracks at Biggs field are supposed to be the nicest in the ARMY.
Rate the PX & Commissary. The PX isn’t bad, there is a lot of variety and the people working there are generally knowledgeable and friendly. The Commissary is usually very crowded, but it is overall a good commissary.
Activities on base? Bowling Alley is the largest (supposedly ) in the ARMY, newly renovated also. There is also a Park at Biggs field which has paintball, rock climbing, and fields for base/softball, soccer, football, and basketball as well as a skate park. Waiting families is a good program, they have free dinner and bowling once a month. There is also a lot of help from the ACS as far as resources for spouses for jobs and schooling.
Active Spouses Club? NCO Wives Club, Officers Club.
Things to do in area? McKelligon Canyon, 2 hours to skiing/snowboarding, lots of shops and local restaurants, bars, clubs, minor league baseball and hockey as well as the UTEP Miners sporting events, Once a year we host the Sun Bowl which is on National Television, also host Texas Vs. The Nation football game.
School System? El Paso Independent, Ysleta, EPISD is probably the best. Lots of High Schools, most 5-A.
Any colleges in area? UTEP, several EPCC campuses, Texas Tech Medical School, NMSU is 1/2 hr. away in NM.
Jobs? (on post and off) A lot require you to be bilingual, but since they are adding another PX and all sorts of shops out at Biggs field, there are lots of available jobs on post. The Army Community Service office will help build resume’s, help find jobs for spouses and teenage dependents.
Favorite aspect of this base/surrounding city? El Paso is right on the border with Mexico, it is a culture shock when you first get here. There is a point in the city where a mountain overlooks 2 countries (US and Mexico) and 3 States (NM, TX and Chihuahua, MX). The base is growing very quickly and new businesses and things to do are popping up everywhere.
Least favorite aspect? Hot, hardly rains, very windy.
Local websites? (base, chamber, newspaper, schools, etc.) BlissMWR.com, EPConnect.net, ElPasoTimes.com, craigslist (El Paso)
Any other tips? Be open minded. It is what you make of it. It’s not hard to navigate and you can basically get to Ft. Bliss from anywhere in the city in 15 minutes. Get involved and get your kids involved. Tour the town, and DON’T GO TO MEXICO. It used to be semi-safe to go, but it definitely is NOT safe anymore, I wouldn’t even attempt it.