4. Okinawa, Japan
Base(s): Fort Buckner, Torii Station, Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler, Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Naval Forces Japan
Best reason to be stationed there: Technicolor everything. A small island off the southern coast of Japan, Okinawa is the place to see life in its most exotic color: fluorescent sea creatures are visible through transparent waters, trees are green and lush, and the spiders are brightly colored (and freaking huge).
The Okinawan culture is extremely polite, respectful, and considerate, which means public areas are extremely clean and well maintained. Okinawans also believe that touching blonde hair is a form of good luck, so blondies will benefit here as incidental celebrities.
Although culture shock is all but inevitable, the US military's heavy presence on the island means just about everything is translated into English. This makes ordering a bowl of delicious, not-from-a-pack ramen that much easier.
Best base amenity: With so many bases located on Okinawa, there is no shortage of amenities. The real highlight, though, is in beachfront property located on some of the island’s primo real estate. Okuma Beach offers affordable cabins rentals, water sports, and snorkeling excursions.
Why you wouldn't want to live there: You will have to trade your large SUV for something much smaller. People in Okinawa drive teeny, overpacked cars, and you will too. Another downside? Produce on the island can be super limited and expensive, since a lot of it is shipped from the States. Think $12 cauliflower. So, if you have kids, they'll likely be overjoyed.
Final word: Residents told us the key to enjoying Okinawa is getting off "the rock" and making the best of travel and cultural opportunities both locally and abroad. In fact, that phrase -- "making the most of it" popped up over and over again in interviews with military personnel. In the words of one transplant, "After getting over myself... and the fact that I wouldn’t be perusing the aisles of Target with a Starbucks in my hand, I looked up and realized I was in paradise." The key here? Make the most of where you are.