Rumor has it your PCS orders are on their way. You already may be asking yourself, “What should I do next?” Let’s face it, relocating can be stressful even if you’ve moved every two years since you joined the military fresh out of high school! But with a little planning, you can ensure this move will be a positive experience for your entire family.
So where do you begin? That depends. If your move is still only a product of the rumor mill, just hang in there until your paperwork comes down the chain of command. However, if orders are already in hand, follow these steps to an easier PCS:
Set up a meeting with the transportation office on your military installation (the name of this office varies depending on the service branch). Regardless of your branch, you can count on this office being swamped, which means getting an appointment can be tricky. Calling early will ensure you aren’t jumping through hoops at the last minute to complete tons of DoD paperwork. An added incentive to call early: you might get first dibs on the moving company with the best reputation in your area, if your transportation office allows you to make a preference of carriers.
Contact the family center at your duty location. Again, the names of this office differ depending on the service branch, but their services remain the same. The family center offers a Relocation Assistance Program (RAP) that provides moving information to all military families. For instance, a RAP rep can answer your toughest questions, from “Will the government move my pet python?” to “Which side of the road do you drive on in Stuttgart?” But if the RAP rep is stumped by one of your questions, you can always count on the family center’s Standard Installation Topic Exchange Service (SITES).
Go surfing! And that’s not just for those of you transferring to Hawaii. Visit SITES (http://www.dmdc.osd.mil/sites) for information about military installations all around the world, including housing, schools, healthcare and employment. Other online resources are out there, too. For example, the Department of Defense website (www.defenselink.mil) is a good source for current moving tips. Each of the service branches has its own website, and check to see if your new duty station has its own site as well.
If you’re living in government quarters, notify the housing office of your projected move date. It’s also a good idea to contact housing for instructions on clearing quarters. After all, a dirty oven or nail holes in the walls could delay you from greeting the moving truck when it arrives at your new duty station. Stop by the finance office at your current duty station. They can explain special relocation entitlements that will help cover your moving expenses (like all those drive-thru cheeseburgers you’ll be eating along the way).
Probably the best way to prepare for your move is to start planning as soon as you get wind of PCS oders, paperwork or not. Remember, even the most seasoned service member can feel a little stressed over a PCS. So take advantage of the resources on the Internet and those provided by the military to save yourself a few headaches. Just try to relax and look at this move as yet another adventure in your military career!