Officers are sleeping in barracks in rooms where there are rat and mice droppings and when they can't avail of limited living-in accommodation they're forced to travel long distances to postings or pay exorbitant rents.
And unlike the gardaí or members of the fire service, the Defence Forces do not receive a rent allowance.
One female officer told the RACO conference about the rodent droppings in a room she was provided in a barracks.
A male officer said sometimes up to three colleagues had to share a room and they had to get drinking water from a trough.
The conference heard that accommodation, where it existed, was in many cases totally substandard. An accommodation block at The Curragh Camp was closed recently because it didn't meet safety standards.
On average, an officer gets a new posting once every 368 days. Many can't afford high rents because they are not well paid and do not get rent allowances. Some are left with no choice but commute long distances to and from work which is impacting on family life.
A number of delegates pointed out that military installations are normally situated in large towns and cities.
Therefore nearly every barracks is in a rent pressure zone and gardaí are now calling for their rent allowances to be increased in line with rising rents.
RACO members are demanding that the Department of Defence immediately invest more money in building proper accommodation for single personnel and for families.
They said that other developed countries ensured they had adequate married and single quarters for their armed forces.
The Department of Defence recently agreed to refurbish a Victorian-era block at the Naval Service headquarters at Haulbowline.
PDForrra, the organisation which represents enlisted personnel, had highlighted that more than 80 sailors were sleeping on ships. This was because there was such limited accommodation at the base and they couldn't afford high rents in towns close to it.
Meanwhile, RACO president Commandant Shane Keogh said that he welcomed members voting to accept increased allowances recommended by the Public Service Pay Commission. However, he told Minister with responsibility for Defence, Paul Kehoe, that was not the end of the matter.
“Please be under no illusion minister, the global reaction is that it falls well short of what is truly required to address our current challenges,” Comdt Keogh said.
Chief of Staff Vice Admiral Mark Mellett addressed the conference and said he will continue to make the case that the nature of military service is unique in the public sector and that better pay and conditions were needed.
“It is our job to go into danger when others are running away, it is our job to put our lives on the line, it is our job to be prepared to use lethal force.
“The evidence is there, our members have died in service, we have stood up to violent extremists, we have rescued hostages, we have saved thousands from death and we have seen hundreds of people die and recovered many bodies,” the chief of staff said.