Fort Bliss, also known as the home of the 1st Armored Division, is the second largest Army base in the country, covering over 1.2 million acres of land in New Mexico and Texas. Adjacent to the Franklin Mountains and located within two hours of multiple travel destinations, there is no shortage of things to do if you like keeping busy. There are approximately 38.5k active-duty soldiers and 39.4k family members that reside here, including thousands of civilian employees and reservists.
You might still dream about green lawns and beaches, but the El Paso/Fort Bliss area is a hidden gem that will surprise you.
One major thing you’ll notice when coming to Fort Bliss is that El Paso isn’t called the “Sun City” for nothing. There are sunny skies 302 days of the year. So pack your sunglasses, best moisturizer, and your favorite sunscreen because you’re in the desert now. Also, some comfy pants because eating your way through the surrounding cities will become a new sport.
As someone who loves gloomy weather, don’t fret. Monsoon Season spans from June 15 to September 30. When it rains it pours! Thunderstorms in the desert are absolutely beautiful . . . minus the flooding. Fort Bliss was my family’s fifth PCS, so here are the major things you’ll need to know to make the best of your new residence.
Playgrounds, Libraries, and MWR
In any of the housing areas, you will find a park for every age group; however, the BEST park on Fort Bliss is Biggs Park. Fourth of July is also held here. The info is all in the name. Located at 11388 Sergeant Major Blvd in East Bliss, this park is huge with two large playgrounds, a splash pad, two large bathroom buildings on site, volleyball, basketball courts, softball fields, picnic areas, pavilions, exercise stations, and two multipurpose fields.
The park areas are covered so you can enjoy with the little ones during most times. There are sensory-friendly play events at the splash pad via the EFMP program, and much of the playground is wheelchair accessible. Biggs Park is a must-go-to after school or on weekends. The new parent support group also has playgroups that come here as well.
MWR is always having an event on base such as concerts, wine tours, rock climbing, gun safety classes, races, language classes (English/Spanish), doggy swim days, UFC fights, and even kayaking. If childcare is an issue, don’t forget to sign your littles up at militarychildcare.com and take advantage of the Saturday programs.
Bliss is a high movement base, so there is a high chance you’ll be going to many of the MWR events with new friends vs. your service member. The USO and Armed Services YMCA are great places for families as well. My family loves the USO events and the Armed Services YMCA even hosts learning groups and daycare for little ones.
The Mickelsen Community Library is located on West Bliss at 2E Sheridan Rd on the basement level. Don’t worry, it’s stroller-friendly, and the staff at the desk will gladly show you a list of story-time events and sign you up for a library card with ease. Did you know you can use your military library card to access media at home? It comes in handy when you can’t make it out of the house because . . . life, right?
Schools in the Area
Ask someone where the best schools are, and you’ll get hit with EPISD, YISD, and SISD, but one thing you won’t see is DODEA. This was the first installation with no DODEA schools which made it harder to gauge the standard as it’s all Texas, but you can request to go to any school in the county, and as long as there is space, you can go. Here’s a list of the schools in closest proximity to the base.
- Milam – 5000 Luke Street 915-236-0325
- Bliss – 4401 Sheridan Rd 915-236-5150
- Logan – 3200 Ellerthorpe Ave 915-236-5750
- Powell – 4750 Ellerthorpe Ave 915-230-5375
- Hughey – 6201 Hughey Dr 915-236-0250
- Basset – 4400 Elm St 915-236-6350
- Ross – 6101 Hughey Dr 915-236-0800
- Magoffin – 4931 Hercules Avenue 915-236-000
- Chapin – 70000 Dyer St 915-236-4400
- William Burges – 7800 Edgemere Blvd 915-236-7200
- Austin – 3500 Memphis Ave 915-236-4200
Housing on Base
Balfour Beatty is the private housing entity at Bliss, and they offer 17 different neighborhoods here at Fort Bliss.
Retail is pretty centralized at Fort Bliss with Freedom Crossing encompassing the PX and multiple places to eat. (It’s larger than a Walmart for perspective.) Of course, in Texas, there is Texas Roadhouse. Stop by and get some rolls to go, you won’t regret it.
Freedom Crossing also has bars, tattoo shops, a UPS store, an indoor inflatable park for kids, and a pharmacy. On East Bliss, there are two large gas stations with shoppettes, and on Main Bliss, you have a large shoppette and gas station near Cassidy Gate.
William Beaumont Army Medical Center is located at 18511 Highlander Medics Street off base on the east side of Bliss and will house specialty clinics, women’s services, and the emergency room.
Fun fact: There is childcare provided for families with appointments at the main hospital and at Mendoza Clinic which comes in handy when you’re alone with the little ones.
ACS located at 2494 Ricker Road next to the theatre will be your main place for assistance when you first come to Fort Bliss. My family used the lending closet while we waited for our HHG to arrive. It was a lifesaver having cooking utensils and chairs to sit on when coming to a new spot. ACS also has volunteer opportunities, deployment resources, AER loans/grants, events, EFMP, and the FAP program right on-site. You can even get a map of the base with numbers to know.
Potential Drawbacks of Fort Bliss
There are some drawbacks to Fort Bliss that I’ve observed during our time here. Communication is scattered between family and units, the constant training, and the heat is intense. It can be challenging to find work off base as well. The heat and lack of large bodies of water is an adjustment if you’re used to those things. However you can take a day trip to New Mexico for green as far as the eye can see. The windstorms can be alarming when you first get here; however, you’ll learn quickly what you can leave outside and what will blow away.
Why I Love Living Here
Let’s be honest, we usually don’t get to choose where we live. However, from the amazing sunsets, shopping, splash parks, mountains, El Paso people, and endless events, the Fort Bliss area will grow on you. This could easily be one of your favorite places and you end up retiring here like many do, or you take advantage of travel and the years breeze by. Like any duty station, unit climate does dictate a lot and it can be an adjustment. Bonus points from an East Coast mama–there is barely any humidity, no hurricanes, and I haven’t experienced a tornado either!
Also, another fun thing that seems to be unique to Bliss is someone is always purging their closet or selling food, so if you need a new jacket or a plate you’re in luck. The El Paso area has the best sunsets in the USA. Just take a quick trip to Scenic Drive or Transmountain and enjoy. You’re also within driving distance of so many cities like Phoenix, Ruidoso, LA, Colorado Springs, Albuquerque, and White Sands. There is also an airport in the east of El Paso that flies internationally.
Welcome to Fort Bliss! When I moved here almost a year ago, I was so nervous and so far away from home, but this has become one of my favorite duty stations. That first week is always an adjustment, but from one mama to another, you got this! However, for those times when it’s tough, lean into the many resources Fort Bliss has for you, and congratulations on your new move!
For a map of Fort Bliss, click here.