Rules / Etiquette

Military Base Gate Etiquette: 10 Small Ways to Avoid a Giant SNAFU

Ah, the military police at the gates. They’re the ones who stand in the intense heat, bitter cold and torrential downpours as they check ID cards. They stand for hours and skip meals. If they have a moment, it’s a quick one to swallow a few bites.

Awesome tips for military spouses to always have a smooth experience at the military base gate | Military wife | Military family | Military significant other | Military girlfriend

My husband was military police—or rather, since he is in the Air Force, he’s known as Security Forces. He did this for fourteen years so he knows things. Currently he’s training to be a MTI, but he’ll always have a soft spot for the military police. He always wants to be sure they are treated well, because sometimes while at the gate they encounter all sorts of things.

Here are tips to make life easier for yourself at the military base gates:

Please turn off your headlights if it’s dark. If you don’t, the military police get blinded. I made the mistake of forgetting once. Then they told my husband, “Dude, your wife totally blinded us.” Oops. Sorry. After that, I made sure to always, always turn off my headlights as I go through the gate.

Turn off your windshield wipers if it’s raining when you approach the gate. If you don’t, they get splashed with the water as they check your ID card. They’re probably cold enough as it is standing there.

Please don’t say “stay warm” or “stay cool.” You might be saying it kindly, but to them they hear sarcasm. It’s just how it goes.

Don’t ask “Oh, you’re checking IDs?” It’s safe to assume that there will be 100 percent ID card checks at the gate. Which leads me to my next point…

Be prepared! Have your ID card ready to go. Don’t dig through your purse. Don’t dig through a wallet. Have it out in a place you can easily grab it. I normally put my card in the drink holder. Granted, there have been times when I’ve gone to get my ID card and it went flying out of my hand. I had to pull over and find it in the backseat. Another time it dropped at the military police dude’s feet. He was polite enough to get it for me. Mistakes DO happen, but at least TRY to be ready to go.

If you don’t know where to go on base, don’t ask a billion questions. It’s okay to ask, “Hey, where’s the commissary,” but don’t follow it up with “And where’s the BX? Where’s the bank? What’s in the food court?” The cops have a line of cars to get through and if they take too long with you, the cars in their line get an attitude.

Please don’t argue if you’re asked to do a random vehicle inspection (RVI.) Some people behave like complete brats when asked to pull over. “But I have someplace to BE!” they might whine. Oh well. Let the cops do their job. It’s not always convenient, but know they are doing it to keep us safe.

Understand that sometimes the military police have to say silly things like, “Welcome to Tinker Air Force Base” even though you’ve lived there for five years. It’s because their commander told them they have to say it. It might sound cheesy, but they don’t have a choice. They are limited on what they can say. Tom told me the story about a fellow cop who got in trouble for saying “Have a blessed day!” because the person he said it to complained and said they weren’t religious.

Don’t complain over stupid crap. See above. Remember: these guys are standing out in the cold and in the heat. They don’t need to deal with extra nonsense.

If the vehicle line is long, don’t complain to the cop. They’re doing the best they can.

Remember that the military police are human beings. Sometimes people forget and think of them as robots that mechanically check ID cards. They deserve our respect. The next time you go through a gate, smile and thank them for what they do. They’ll appreciate it.

amber myers bioAmber Myers is a proud military wife and mother to two kids who drive her to eat lots of chocolate. She blogs over at Airing My Laundry. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.



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  1. I always ask for their first names & learn as many as I can! Sometimes I get weird looks when I ask, but I’ve found that even the gruffest gate guard is happy when I greet them by name. I always miss our gate guard friends when we PCS!

  2. Twenty plus years of going thru gates and the biggest one is always be prepared. Be polite and smile….that being said, you are going to find some that are power hungry and very annoying. I do tell them to stay warm in a genuine way, no matter what I will ALWAYS tell them that. How they take it is their business. I laugh very hard when reading the comment about licking it to and sticking it to my forehead. There are days when you are hella tired. lol. I once went up to a gate and the guard was HUGE I mean HULK big, muscled and mean wow…giant…I gave him a serious look and said they really do need to find much bigger guards ..the ones they have now are puny…he busted out laughing and said thank you. They are people too, that protect every single day.

  3. When entering an armory the other day I learned that if you give them your ID upside down it a silent way to tell them you’re in distress. I was embarrassed to say the least, but learned something new. I now pay close attention to how I hand them my ID when I visit my husband.

  4. That’s interesting. I need to remember this. My hubby is graduating from basic training next week. So many things to remember. LOL

  5. I’ve been in a serious relationship with an Airman for close to a year now and some of these are common courtesy, but I appreciate the post. Also, after reading the comments, I definitely want to bake the MPs cookies because I wasn’t aware that’s they may not get lunch. I definitely think that would be easier for them to munch on between cars than say a sandwich’s or something. ?

  6. As a visitor to a base to visit my son in AIT, we also learned that you need to provide car registration and proof of car insurance. They did a vehicle search every time we visited also. I was prepared after the first visit.

  7. Here’s a quick tip for spouses that will help prevent some embarrassment when referring to the installation where your spouse is assigned. The Army installations are posts. The Air Force and Navy installations are called bases. The Marine installations are called camps. When speaking to your spouse or other service members, it will help them not to have to switch gears in their head and convert their conversation to the way civilians speak although they are probably more than willing to do so. If you want to keep things simple, all of these can be summed up by calling them installations.

  8. Before the pandemic, one of my favorite thing to do was stop by the Sonic and buy a four pack of cokes for the guards. My husband is a retired Lt.Col. and I know how hot he’d get on the flight line and these guys working the gate in full gear in the heat of summer, I just felt so bad for them. They loved it and some even remembered me and my regular Saturday runs to the Commissary. We’ve retired and moved to an area with no base. I’d get Sonic cards now I guess. Just not the same as a cold drink on a hoT day.

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