For military families, getting Permanent Change of Station orders can sometimes set off a roller coaster of emotions: excitement, worry, relief, fear, hope, resignation and many others. Sometimes all in one day! And while a lot of these families adjust quickly and make any new city feel like home, for others, the inevitable uprooting to a new installation is a jarring experience they definitely don’t love.
One way some military families deal with the disruption of their established daily lives is to consider a geographic bachelor status. It may not be a perfect solution to a family’s concerns, but it may make sense in certain situations. So what is a geo bachelor exactly, and could it be an option for you?
What is a Geographic Bachelor?
When a spouse or parent is in the armed forces, their families commonly show great strength and sacrifice during this time of service too. However, each family has needs as unique as every person in that family. In some cases, those needs temporarily outweigh the desire to live under one roof when the service member is ordered to a new duty station.
In these cases, a service member may elect to become a geographic bachelor (or bachelorette). A “geo-bach” chooses to depart for their new installation while their family stays at their previous home or perhaps moves to an alternative location.
This also makes it a different kind of move than, say, a hardship tour, when the orders don’t include military dependents.
Geo Bachelor Pros and Cons
Choosing to live apart from your family during active-duty service can be a difficult decision.
Some of the common reasons, or “pros,” for why a family may choose to geographically separate include:
- A service member’s assignment of less than a year.
- A spouse’s job stability or progression.
- Owning a home in the previous location.
- Preparing for imminent retirement.
- School/environment stability for children.
- Medical care consistency.
Having health care providers that are familiar with all the special treatments for a family member would definitely be considered a pro. Or perhaps your oldest child is one year from graduating from high school. While choosing to split households — and thus having fewer people to handle double responsibilities — can be a hardship, some considerations are easy to place in the pro column.
The largest “con,” or reason many families choose not to separate, is the simple fact of being physically apart — by choice. Families already dealing with deployments and heavy training schedules may feel that a self-imposed separation would mean even less time together to bond over the special moments in life. And while technology makes it possible to share many of those times remotely now, the ages of any children and the challenges a family is facing could be factors in your decision — to be together.
The Defense Travel Management Office has said that “a fundamental philosophy of military service is that members, with their families, create a better work environment and esprit de corps when they can be active participants in the local base and community.” However, the department understands some military members still need to make this geographic bachelor choice, even if being one isn’t an officially recognized DOD status.
Other Factors to Consider
Deciding whether living apart or keeping your household together are pros or cons is a complex decision. Here are a few other things to consider that could be pros or cons depending on your unique circumstances:
Geo Bachelor Housing
In the past, geographic bachelors could easily find single accommodations at their new duty installation, usually in the barracks.
However, in the past few years, all five branches have ruled that there is no official mandate to house geo-bachelors within unaccompanied housing.
At the few installations that do still allow for some geographic bachelors to live in barracks, based on availability, there could be a small fee per day and those GBs could be asked to vacate if housing needs for unaccompanied service members is greater.
Nowadays, geographic bachelors typically decide to rent an apartment, a room, trailer or other lodging in the local community simply due to more availability and convenience.
Do I Still Get BAH if I Geo Bachelor?
Yes, you do — with one major stipulation.
Geographically separated families are usually eligible only for a BAH based on the member’s duty station, not the location of the family’s residence.
Depending on the difference in the cost of living between the bachelor’s city and the family’s city, this could be a pro or con. Until your BAH and living expenses are finalized, you should expect that, ultimately, you could be supporting two households with one housing allowance.
You can see exactly what you’ll get with the Defense Travel Management Office’s official BAH calculator. Just select the year, type in the zip code of your gaining installation, you or your spouse’s pay grade, and hit “calculate.”
To learn more about your military BAH rate, visit our in-depth guide here.
In rare cases, such as when a dependent requires healthcare not available at the gaining installation, an exemption to allow for geo-baching status will be added to the service member’s orders. Exemptions require paperwork and the following processes:
- Geo-bachelor Air Force: Submit AF form 594 to request a waiver in BAH because of geo-baching. Waivers may be granted for hardships such as deployment, medical needs or a school lasting less than one year.
- Geo-bachelor Army: Request geo-baching paperwork from Army Human Resources Command by submitting an email request with DA Form 4187.
- Geo-bachelor Navy/Marine Corps: A sailor of Marine officer or enlisted (ranked E-6 and above) can submit a Geographical Bachelor Quarters Application through their chain of command’s admin office. Ranks E-1 through E-5 may be assigned to empty barracks. Quarters are not guaranteed at all bases.
Exemptions for reasons such as a spouse’s job or other personal choices are unlikely to be met with sympathy. Remember, that there is no guarantee that any exemption will be approved.
When deciding to become a geographic bachelor, keep in mind not just the emotional cost but the literal cost as well. Maintaining two households (including everything from rent to utilities to food) and traveling for visits between the two locations can add up quickly.
Find out your new BAH rate and see if your combined budgets will even make geo-baching financially feasible.
There’s nothing romantic about choosing to become a “bachelor” when loved ones must separate during a PCS. But strong military families, which are already tested by distance and other challenges normally, can sometimes make a geographic bachelor status as rosy as it can be.
With a lot of education, communication and dedication, this temporary way of life could even strengthen the bonds between service members and their families. It’s up to you to decide whether the pros and cons of geo-baching make such a separation worth it.
The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.