contributed by Melissa Lucas, senior staff writer
Let’s start with the basics. What does PCS mean? In the military, permanent change of station (PCS) orders indicate that a service member is being relocated to a new installation.
There are many benefits that accompany life in the Military. PCS orders provide quite a few – experiencing new cultures, new foods, new customs, new scenery. They may even be among the reasons you chose to build a life in the Military. PCS moves, however, can be a lot of work.
If you ask anyone who’s been through a Military PCS move, whether it’s a PCS accompanied by family or not, the first word of advice you’ll receive is that you can’t be too organized. Organizing and planning your move in advance will save you precious time and energy as your move date approaches. We recommend starting a “moving binder” the moment your military relocation orders come in. What goes in that binder will depend on the type of PCS move you’re planning.
Your installation will have a Relocation Assistance Program that provides information and support for arriving to, and getting settled at, your new duty station. They will also help with the moving process. Additionally, these programs provide assistance for special circumstances such as emergency financial aid or navigating the immigration process for foreign-born spouses.
Alternately, you may opt to organize your move yourself. In this case you’ll do the planning, packing, and shipping, and the military will reimburse you. There are several PPM program options which include travel allowances, per diem and mileage reimbursement, insurance coverage, and reimbursement of other costs associated with your PCS Military move.
Regardless of which moving option you choose (relocation assistance or PPM), here are some PCS tips to help alleviate the potential frustration or stress that can come along with relocating.
Triple check to make sure everything listed on your orders is correct. Spelling of names, birthdates, social security numbers, etc. The last thing you want is to be stuck because of an administrative oversight.
Having Power of Attorney (POA) could mean the difference between a smooth move and a bumpy ride. It may be helpful to obtain a POA for your spouse, and them for you, prior to your Military PCS move. This gives each of you the right to sign paperwork for the other in the event of absence. Even if you expect that you’ll be in the same location throughout the move, we all know military life isn’t that predictable. Changes can occur without notice, which is when a POA will come in handy.
If you have the time and ability to visit your new installation prior to your move, awesome. If not, you can still learn all about the place you’ll be living by using an online guide for this purpose. Military OneSource’s installation guide and Military.com’s base guide are both excellent options.
Regardless of whether you have six months’ or six days’ notice, start planning your move the moment you get your orders. This is particularly important if you’ll be moving during the peak PCS season (May – August). You may find that there is a waiting list for housing on base, or that securing ideal dates to pick up and deliver your belongings is a challenge.
Many companies in the moving industry provide Military discounts. Take advantage of any opportunity to save money throughout the moving process. Keep an eye out for these and any other type of discounts available once you arrive and begin setting up your new home.
Before you jump into action, make a list of the actions you know you’ll need to take. This gives you the opportunity to slow down, prioritize, and organize. Unsurprisingly, Military OneSource has resources for this, too. They’ll help you create customized military PCS move checklists. Just answer a few questions and the tool generates lists specific to your needs. As you go through the process and provide additional details, the military move checklists will become more detailed as well.
This sounds like overkill until one (or more!) of your boxes goes missing. Ideally, everything will arrive on time and without a hitch. But keeping a copy of your orders in each box will help your belongings make their way back to you in the event that a mistake does happen.
Excitement, change, and new experiences are all a part of life in the Military. A PCS move shouldn’t take away from that. With a little planning, a little assistance, and the willingness to be just a little bit flexible, you could very well navigate the moving process with little stress.