7 Tips To Make A Military Move – PCS – Smoother

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Defense

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Defense

We are smack dab in the middle of the peak moving season for military families. Traditionally, it’s May through August. And it happens every two to three years — to mostly all military families.

It’s called “Permanent Change of Station” or P-C-S.

It can be a stressful time, but one of the bright spots is that the military community has a strong network with plenty of moving experience to share.

Maggie Hahn is a retired Marine Corps spouse who has moved children, household goods and pets across the country six different  times during her husband’s military career and nine deployments.

And she kept a journal through it all. Hahn shares some of those ideas she jotted down to make each move a little bit smoother than the last.

  1. Create a “No Move Zone” in your home to get your children involved. It’s a place where they can place their special items they want to personally carry and not have packed in the moving truck.
  2.  Be proactive and start planning immediately as soon as you learn you have a Permanent Change of Station.
  3. Start putting money aside – a PCS fund if you will – for unexpected travel costs and things like rent and utility deposits at your next duty station.
  4. Carry your important documents with you in a fire-proof box — school and medical records, IDs and passports.
  5. Families should compare their current cost of living rate (BAH) with the rate for their new base because it will be different and affect their budget.
  6. Take photographs of your belongings in case something is lost or damaged and of things like stereo and TV connections so it’s easier to reconnect your electronics in your new home.
  7. Use the military’s Permissive Temporary Duty, leave to go house hunting at your new station.

Hahn said it’s important to get “boots on the ground” and “eyes in the field” when deciding where to live in your new duty station.

“I was looking for the little tykes’ play sets,” Hahn said. “I was looking for the big wheels, the bicycles, the parks. Did I feel comfortable in that neighborhood? Did I feel safe knowing that my loved one was going to be gone a lot of the time on deployment?”

Hahn works as an advocate with USAA, an insurance, banking and real estate company that caters to military and veterans. So, it’s not surprising that she recommends making sure you have renters or homeowners insurance that covers moving household goods and storage.

Her company’s website also offers a free, downloadable, 20-page PCS Guide. And USAA members can connect via social media for immediate feedback about their new duty station. And there’s a 16 point list of things to do for your next move.

Seeking Military Spouses to Serve as Ambassadors


Photo courtesy of YourMilitary.com.

It’s a volunteer position which means there’s no pay, but a YourMilitary.com Ambassador gets free training on business software and an opportunity to become a leader within their military community in return.

YourMilitary.com is looking to enroll more than 240 military spouses who  will answer questions from relocating families, contribute to an online blog and attend local events.

There are requirements to being selected as a YourMilitary.com Ambassador:

  • You must be a military spouse
  • You must live in the community they are applying for
  • You must make a personal commitment to work at least 10 hours weekly
  • You must have a computer with Internet access

You can learn more about the Ambassador project HERE.

You can access an Ambassador Application Form HERE.

And for those seeking a job, there’s YourMilitaryJobs.com.

Growing Up Military Overseas Meant Certain Change

I’m pleased to introduce a former WUSF colleague who grew up in a military family with three sisters and both parents serving as officers. I asked her to reflect on growing up overseas.

By Natasha Samreny

In 2001, my dad retired from the Air Force, and CENTCOM activated my mom around 9/11. We stayed in Tampa, and any dreams of returning to life overseas faded more every year.

My mom dressed us up in coordinating outfits for every major out-of-country flight. We were easier to spot in case we got separated.

I liked moving. We PCS’d (Permanent Change of Station) when one or both of my military parents were assigned or offered new jobs in another location. They decided based on their professional goals, our family’s input, and of course where the government said they were needed. But for my sisters and me, the moves ensured change and growth: traveling, making new friends and adventures in another country.

I never thought of the U.S. as home, I was young when we left for Panama. Happiness meant playing with my sisters in the tropical rains. Our tan bodies and sun-bleached hair thrived on mangos and pineapple juice. Germany was colder, and “home” changed from a two-story house-on-stilts to a modest apartment converted from old Army barracks. But we adjusted because that’s what we knew.

Two major factors eased the moves: my parents, and base living.

My mom immigrated from Ecuador as a child, learning English on the fly. My dad grew up in Pittsburgh’s mixed Hill District, where Saturday morning bakery and sandwich-shop aromas carried countries through the streets. Both educated dreamers from loving families, when they sat us down to talk about our next trip, challenges became “opportunities”. We spent holidays trekking through Europe, catching our fondest memories.  Bases overseas offer ready-made community living for American families relocating to foreign countries. We all came from somewhere else. Like kids at summer camp, our time was short, so we made the most of it.

When we returned to the States, a decade passed before I called it home. I felt like I was betraying everything I knew; if I accepted this final destination, I accepted the suffocating thought that I didn’t know how to change or start again without relocating. This was the normal I had come to expect and need from life.

You Know You Are a Military Spouse When …

Jackie Dorr with her daughters, Paisley and Anastin.

You know you’re a military spouse when: You’ve mowed more lawns than your husband because he’s never there to do it himself.

You use an “L” shaped flashlight with the red lens during power outages because it’s the only one you can ever find in the house.

You know that it’s normal to set fire to shoe polish or use a heat gun and that the best way to spit-shine boots is with cotton balls.

Your husband is a land nav expert, but takes a GPS for a trip to the mall.

You only write in pencil because EVERYTHING can and will change.

You need a translator to talk to your civilian friends, only because they have no idea what DFAS, AER, TDY, ACS, NPD, PCS, and ETS mean.*

You never put curtains up because by the time you do it is time to move.

You track time in duty stations and deployments, not years.

You know that “back home” doesn’t mean at the house you live in now, it refers to your last duty station.

You know that a two month separation IS short, no matter what your civilian friends say.

You know better than to go to the PX or commissary between 11:30 and 13:00, or on payday unless it’s a life or death emergency (seriously).

You know that any reference to “sand” or a “box” describes NTC at Ft. Irwin, Iraq, or Afghanistan, not your kid’s backyard toys.

You have a stock in flat rate shipping boxes, in varying sizes.

You don’t have to think about what time 21:30 is.

You’ve spent more time apart than you have together.

You’ve ever been referred to as “Household 6.”

You know his friends and people he works with only by their last names.

You stand for the National Anthem at a movie theater.

You carry shipping tape, sharpies, and customs forms (already filled out) in your vehicle.

It only costs you $30 to have a child.

You can spot a soldier in civilian clothes a mile away by their posture, haircut and that certain “air about them.”

You pick apart uniforms on TV and in the movies, even though you used to yell at your husband for doing the same thing.

You know your husbands SSN better than your phone number.

You have “we moved!” cards on hand.

You run for the phone,every time it rings.

You spell everything using the phonetic alphabet, Alpha, Bravo …

*DFAS – Defense Finance Accounting System; AER – Army Emergency Relief; TDY – Temporary Duty; ACS – Army Community Service (among others for ACS); NPE – Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (Fund); PCS – Permanent Change of Station; ETS – Estimated Time of Separation.

After reading several different blog entries on the theme – You Know You’re Military When … – I asked Jackie Dorr, President of the MacDill Enlisted Spouses Club, to write about her experiences. I invite any readers, military or civilian, to contribute their personal insights or spins such as – You Know You’re a Civilian When … – I look forward to reading your humorous, thoughtful and creative responses.

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