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.

Ad Campaign Aims at Helping Blue Star Families

Multiple deployments and Permanent Change of Station (PCS) are two of many stresses unique to military families. There’s a Public Service Ad Campaign aimed at letting the Blue Star Families know they are not alone.

For help, military members and family members can call 800-273-8255.

As an aside, two contributors to Off the Base who are Blue Star Mothers are part of a Blue Star Mothers event Saturday hosted by the White House. Congratulations to Dorie Griggs and Tracie Ciambotti both excellent examples of supportive and proactive military moms.

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.

Military Kids on the Move, Again

Child, Youth and School Services at Fort Drum, N.Y., spent months planning special events to show their appreciation to the military children in their community. U.S. Army photo

I was poking around on the website, Military Youth on the Move, checking out tips to help military children deal with circumstances that many of their classmates or friends may never experience. It is an opportunity, even for adults, to understand the military child’s unique experiences. Here are a few things I pulled from the website.

Ever think about what it’s like for military children to move  or PCS (Permanent Change of Station) every few years? Here’s the perspective of an elementary child.

“It’s almost like if you don’t come home the first day at your new school with at least 5 friends you’re going to have to wear a big sign with “Reject” written on it. But it’s not that way at all!!”
Leah, age 9

Imagine being a teenager who has attended 10 different schools. This is from the site’s section of high school students.

“I had a really hard time moving this time. I mean, it’s not like I haven’t moved before, this is like the 10th new school for me. But this time, it was harder to make friends and really hard to leave my old friends. I ended up talking to my counselor about my classes and then I just lost it and told her how I just didn’t think I could do my junior and senior year here. Can you believe they have a support group for military kids at this school because there’s so many of us? We even got training on how to help other kids who move here. Very cool.”
Keisha, age 16

Some of the military children find positives in their mobile lifestyle. This is from the middle school section.

“Skateboarding, snowboarding, surfboarding. In that order. That’s what I did at the last three bases. I’m happy to report that I’m always ‘board.'”
Jeremy, 12

There’s a section just for parents with tips on how to handle another move to how to give yourself a break.

The latest military family information and research will be presented at The 2011 Family Resilience Conference that starts Wednesday (27 April 2011). Many of the will be streamed live here.

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