Category Archives: PCSing

A Tale of Two PCS Movers

love-or-hate-pcs-movers-military-redo

It’s the height of Permanent Change of Station (PCS) season, and like many military families, my family recently moved. I’ve always felt fortunate to have packers and movers who pack and move all of our worldly possessions from one location to another, so I try to make them feel comfortable, keep them hydrated and ensure the items they are packing are clean and organized.

When we left our home on the East Coast, the crew of packers who came to our house were amazing–the best ever! They were funny, they were nice, they were polite, and they were actually lots of fun. They even played great music while they filled boxes and emptied our home! Having people pack all of your household goods, and being in your home all day is a very personal experience, uncomfortable, even. But this group made moving feel like a party! I was so grateful for the funny and kind crew filling their truck with all of our stuff.

When we arrived at our new home, I was excited to receive our household goods and get settled in. We had already signed a lease on a new house, but our delivery date meant our items were in storage for a few days. With a quick delivery date, we would have a new team delivering our things. I was sorry I wouldn’t see the first team again, but I was optimistic.

My optimism didn’t last long. The team who arrived at our new home were not excited about their job. They were very slow in unloading the truck, and weren’t very grateful for the soda, water, and Gatorade we provided. One member of the team even asked me what was for lunch…at 10:30 in the morning, when there were, roughly, 10 boxes unloaded. It was a disappointing and uncomfortable day.

I tell this story because customer feedback is really important during the moving process. I was in touch with our moving coordinator, who was wonderful, throughout our move. We spoke so often, she should probably be added to my Christmas card list! I updated her, and the transportation offices at our old and new installations on how the move was going. She reminded how important it is to complete the Customer Satisfaction Survey. This survey helps determine which companies are doing well, and will continue to receive moving contracts to assist other military families, and who will not. The survey is a way to let your voice be heard; if something isn’t going well, or you don’t feel comfortable with the way you or your items are being treated, it is okay to say so. If you are extremely happy, please be sure and voice this too!

Sometimes, the packing and moving process experience is a coin-toss–you’ll never know what you’ll get. Have you had a crazy PCS experience?

Ann HPosted by Ann Hamilton, Volunteer Services Coordinator, South Region

How to PCS with an Infant: 4 Tips You Need to Know!

pcs-with-an-infant-baby-military

It goes without saying that having an infant makes life exciting, yet chaotic. This statement is also true when taking on a Permanent Change of Station (PCS). But the fun really begins when you have a newborn AND you PCS.

A few tips and tricks from our family, to yours:

Request medical records as soon as possible. This was certainly a lesson learned the hard way. When you need to request medical records, they tell you this process takes the military treatment facility at least 30 days. I didn’t believe them because, hey, my daughter was just five months old and couldn’t possibly have that much in her file. I was wrong and was scrambling a day before her six month appointment to piece together her records. So, what I know now is to fill out the request form as soon as you have a new address and keep your own set of records just in case something happens before they arrive.

Stay away on move-in day. This was the best decision we made during our PCS. My husband met the truck with our household goods, while the baby and I bunked with family for an extra day. When your stuff is being unloaded, it’s a hectic, noisy situation not conducive for a baby. If you’re able to stay away and let someone else direct the movers, do it! By the time we arrived the next day, the house was partially unpacked and it was much easier to care for our daughter while settling in.

pcs-with-an-infant-baby-military-pinterestPack the essentials. When you PCS, you know it is going to be at least a week before your washer and dryer are set up, and your family is eating meals at the dining room table. I always pack an “immediate needs” box with essentials that we will need either in a hotel room, or in our empty house. The box includes paper plates, plastic utensils, paper towels, trash bags, etc…you know the drill. Since we were PCSing with an infant, I packed enough diapers and wipes for a week, most of her clothes and blankets, a portable bed, and all her feeding supplies. I purposefully chose things we needed, versus what would be nice to have. For example, I didn’t pack the infant bathtub, but did pack every sleeper she had so I didn’t have to worry about laundry for a few days.

Get local. As soon as we found out our new duty location, I immediately started researching the area. PCSing to a new place is an adventure and I wanted to get started. In addition to finding a new doctor, veterinarian, and hairstylist, I also wanted to know how to entertain and establish my family in our new home. I read local blogs, followed local businesses, and studied a map to know my way around before we even arrived. I also planned some fun excursions as a way to conclude our move.

Moving in the military can be challenging, but add in an infant, and you’ve got a little bit of extra planning to do! Our family managed to pull this off with, surprisingly, very few issues or tears. It was a tremendous learning experience for this military family, and I hope these tips can help your next move!

What would you add to the list? Comment below and tell us!

tomi-schwandt-headshotPosted by Tomi Schwandt, Active Duty Reserve Spouse and National Military Family Association Volunteer

We PCS’d to Another Country…in only 22 Days!

PCS-in-22-days-military

I find that a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) perfectly pairs the excitement and anticipation of the holidays with the stress and apprehension of a root canal.

There’s always so much to do at your current location, and even more waiting for you at your new home. Thankfully, there are great resources available to help you along the way…well, most of the time.

My family and I completed a PCS from Italy to the U.S. in 22 days, flat. It was unexpected, and there was no checklist available to help us perform this feat, but we did it. We shipped a car, packed out our home, took care of medical records, school records, and veterinarian records. All while my husband simultaneously cleared the post. We said our goodbyes and made last trips to some of our favorite sites and restaurants. Just like that, our time in Italy had come to an end.

We boarded the plane to the U.S. with mixed emotions; our first European tour was filled with family adventures, a culture rich in history and beautiful architecture, and delicious food and wine. We touched down it Atlanta, GA on a hot June afternoon. We realized we didn’t have working cell phones and we were hours later than we told our friends (who we were staying with temporarily) we would be. But we piled in the car, and took off to find their home. By evening, we pulled into the driveway and were welcomed ‘home’ in the way friends-who-are-family welcome you.

PCS-in-22-days-military-pinterestWe spent the evening catching up, and jumped into action the next morning. We took care of the cell phones, set up appointments with realtors and began talking about schools for our kids. Typically, we would have started our research in advance, but that was not a luxury we would have this time around. We needed to make decisions and we needed to make them quickly. Jet lag set in and the whirlwind move began taking its toll on all of us. Emotions were running high…and I’m pretty sure I was leading the pack.

Moves are stressful, and we all want to make the right decisions for our families. But none of us are perfect and we can only do our best. Finding the perfect neighborhood, job opportunities, reputable schools, competitive sports programs, welcoming churches, convenient dog parks, quality health care providers (and list goes on and on) can leave your head spinning. Take a breath and know there are very few decisions that cannot be changed. Some may even be changed again…and again.

Several weeks passed before our decisions were final. The excitement mounted as we purchased our new home, school began, the kids joined soccer teams, and eventually our car and household goods arrived. The excitement gave way to a calm that was peaceful and very familiar.

Our military family was home, once again.

Have you experienced a chaotic move, and finally found ‘home’ after it was all said and done? Share it with us in the comments!

kimPosted by Kim Edger, Website Architect

Everyone’s Moving But Me: How to Make the Most Out of Someone Else’s PCS

make-the-most-of-someone-elses-pcs

We’re deep in the throes of peak PCS season, and the energy among the military spouses around me is electric. Facebook groups for spouses are lighting up with questions about which side of town is best, which cable company to use, and which school their little ones should go to. Some have even found their new neighbors through a very scientific experiment called Seven Degrees of Separation.

Then there’s me.

Still here. Not moving. Saying goodbye to friends. Seeing the start of another crazy adventure for those receiving new orders. And it feels lonely.

I willed myself back to reality, knowing our orders would be coming down the pipe in another year, but in the meantime, I couldn’t help but think about whether anyone else ever felt this way?

Left behind. Alone and disconnected, even in the midst of a flood of new people, new adventures, and new possibilities.

So, I decided to make a list of things I could do to make the most of someone else’s PCS.

Meet Your New Neighbor
Whether you live on post, or out in town, you’re bound to see the moving truck roll around this summer. And even if you’re feeling lonely because a friend moved away, take this chance to introduce yourself to the new family in your neighborhood. This seems like a no-brainer, but I’m constantly reminding myself of this. I’d previously been shot down when I walked over on move-in day and introduced myself to my own new neighbors; they said hello, but have never spoken to me since. And that’s okay. I choose to be welcoming, happy, and hopeful.

Set Up, Then Put Down
Some commands and units are a revolving door of new families checking in. Others, like ours, welcome a new group each fall. Whatever the schedule is for your unit, take advantage by setting up a time to invite someone new to coffee, an FRG meeting, or out for a playdate. Then put your phone down! Make every intention of being present and emotionally available to your new potential friend—it makes a difference. You’ll leave an impression with that new spouse of being caring, engaged, and welcoming. (And it almost always guarantees another hang out!)

Invite Yourself to Things
This one has been hard for me. I’m the type who waits to be invited, rather than invites herself. Partly because I think it’s respectful, and partly because I’m scared of someone telling me I’m not invited. Honestly? The chances of someone saying that are slim, so put yourself out there and ask to tag along if you know a few spouses are doing something fun! Inviting yourself can be intimidating, but it serves a dual purpose—it can take away the fear someone else might have for meeting new people, and it immediately breaks down barriers others might have in wondering if you’re outgoing and friendly (which you totally are!).

Dive into Your Community
Once your MilSpouse friends move away, and you’re feeling like your social circle just got a little smaller, consider taking a turn in the opposite direction from the military. Get out and find organizations, groups, and networking circles within your community to branch out. Sure, military spouses can relate to your home life, but having non-military friends can open a whole new world, and most of those game-changing friends are in your community. Try out a volunteer corps, food pantry, or professional club, and see what interesting people you meet!

Being left behind during PCS season doesn’t have to be leave you standing in the haze of exhaust from a departing moving truck. It can be a new season for you, too. All you have to do is get up and welcome the new adventure.

Are you a left-behind friend during PCS season? How do you make the most of it?

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

Calling All Bloggers! Share Your Story on Branching Out!

share-your-story-with-nmfa-blog

It’s no secret—military families have collected their fair share of stories, experiences, and traditions throughout their military journeys. We know you’ve got plenty of tips, tricks, pictures, and laughable moments up your sleeve. That’s why we want you to be a guest blogger!

Our blog covers all areas of military life, including PCS moves, raising military kids, spouse employment, military marriage, and the tough stuff—like transition, being a caregiver, and even divorce.

During the months of July and August, we’re looking for unique stories in about:

Think you’ve got awesome blogging skills and want to share your journey with other military families? We’d love to hear from you!

What works:
Inspirational stories – we want readers to jump out of their seats because they were moved by your journey. Sharing personal stories, hardships, or humor can be just what someone needs to relate to you. Don’t be afraid to amaze and inspire!
Original content – We will not publish content that has already been published elsewhere on the web. We aim for authentic and unique content!
Well-written content –Your writing should reflect your individual voice! So if you feel excited, let us know! Had a hard time with a recent PCS? Express that in your writing. Great blog posts will grab the reader and keep their attention through awesome details!
Topics about military families or military life – We are 100% military family focused, so make sure your submission is, too! Are you a company looking to share a resource? Great! Use your original content to tie back to the military community, and keep in mind: our subject matter experts will review any resource prior to posting.
Sending your own photos – Pictures are the best! And we want to share yours! Make sure images are appropriate, clear, and don’t violate OPSEC or PERSEC.

What doesn’t work:
Incomplete, unedited articles – Always be sure to proof read your work before submitting it. If you’re unsure if something is well-written, have a friend or family member read over it and give their thoughts!
Inappropriate content – No profanity, graphic, obscene, explicit or racial comments will be accepted. Make sure you aren’t oversharing, or violating OPSEC or PERSEC! If you’re submitting photos, please be sure they are tasteful.
Advertisements – We don’t promote any business or organization we are not in direct partnership with, and we do not offer advertisements on our blog; however, we do have advertising opportunities through our mobile app, MyMilitaryLife. Please email App [at] MyMilitaryLife [dot] org.

How to Submit:
Email your completed article to Blog [at] MilitaryFamily [dot] org. Because Branching Out is 100% military family focused, we will review each submission to ensure it aligns with our content strategy. If it does, you’ll receive an email from us to let you know your article will be published. Please allow us some time to respond – our little fingers type as fast as possible!

Blog submissions must include:
First and last name
Contact email
Service affiliation and location
250-700 words per post
Headshot or clear photo of yourself

The Fine Print:
Sharing is caring – We want your original content, but that doesn’t mean you can’t share the link on your own website after we’ve published your submission! Share like crazy!
Editing and adapting – We reserve the right to edit and adapt your guest blog content as we see fit.

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

My PCS has Gone Bad…Now What?

moving-pcs-stickers-military-1

In the peak of summer, military families are immersed in the chaos of the Permanent Change of Station (PCS) cycle. This process involves so many moving parts; it is amazing that it works as well as it does. Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC) is the executive agent for the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Personal Property Program. SDDC recommends diligent planning, attention to detail and flexibility for a smooth move. Our Association even has a fantastic smart phone app, called MyMilitaryLife, that does all the hard work for you! But we all know things go wrong, even with the best planning, and most flexible parties. SDDC’s website is a great starting point for links to everything that follows. Bookmark it, write it down, and make it your friend!

Even though we are on the downswing of peak PCS season, we still get questions on the “rules” about moving. US Transportation Command’s guide can be useful, with information from weight limits, to the hours your packers should be at your home. For questions about what can be moved to how, it is a great guide.

Most people are now moving using the online Defense Personal Property System via Move.mil instead of going through the Personal Property Shipping Office (PPSO, aka PPPO, TMO or TO) to arrange their PCS move, but you can still find your installation PPSO. By using the Move.mil website portal, you can stay informed of where you are in your moving process, along with access to your Transportation Service Provider (TSP). In most cases, you will want to contact your assigned TSP as your first line of defense with any complications that arise. However, you can also email, phone, or submit help tickets directly to SDDC via the Move.mil website portal.

If you are in the middle of the moving process and something goes wrong that costs you extra money (for example, your packers don’t finish in time and the movers are delayed, causing you to incur extra costs because you can’t leave as scheduled) you can file an Inconvenience Claim. This would be done through your TSP via Move.mil. Your claim must be reasonable and the costs must be directly related to the newly created hardship, and you must be able to provide receipts to support your claim. If you have trouble with an inconvenience claim through your TSP, you can contact the PPPO or Military Claims Office to assist in the settlement process. We sometimes hear the claims process can be cumbersome, but there are a lot of resources on the Move.Mil website portal to help you understand the process. Check out their guides and tutorials available.

If your problem is related to your Privately Owned Vehicle (POV), get in touch with the contractor moving your vehicle, International Auto Logistics (IAL). If your vehicle has not been delivered and the Required Delivery Date (RDD) has passed, you are entitled to reimbursement for a rental vehicle. The military will cover up to seven days at a rate limited to $30 per day that expires upon the date the POV is delivered. Any car rental required beyond seven days will have to be submitted to IAL. They will review claims for temporary lodging and rental car expenses due to a missed RDD via their website.

  • For damages to your POV, you need to contact IAL to file a damage claim. 1-800-389-9499 or email claims@ialpov.us.
  • For IAL’s customer service, email customerservice@ialpov.us.
  • For more assistance on POVs, you can reach the USTRANSCOM POV Inspector General Customer Support Team at usarmy.scott.sddc.mbx.pov-ig-reponse@mail.mil.

After your move, you want to make sure to fill out the Customer Satisfaction Survey. The scores you provide help determine whether or not the TSP you used will continue to ship for DoD families. Good or bad, your feedback matters.

Don’t forget that all of these resources and quick links are at the touch of your fingertip through our innovative, perfect-for-your-military-journey, smartphone app, MyMilitaryLife!

Have you used any of these resources? What questions do you have about PCSing? Share them, and your experiences, in the comments!

Brooke-GoldbergPosted by Brooke Goldberg, Government Relations Deputy Director

How to Win at PCSing with 4 Easy Tips

4-ways-to-win-at-PCSing

PCSing is an adventure with the opportunities to live in new places, meet new people, learn new things, and have new experiences. It’s an adventure hoping your furniture fits in the new house, and learning the driving style/etiquette of your new town. PCSing is a total, ‘bring all of your worldly possessions, your family, and your pets’ kind of adventure! And I just finished another one.

Here are four tips to win at PCSing:

Control what you can and let the rest go.
This will help save your sanity! I typically think about what I will miss about my current neighborhood, or town, and then I start finding replacements in my new community. I usually start to feel better once I find our house (usually through AHRN.com or militarybyowner.com), a new doctor (thank you TRICARE Provider website), a salon (hooray for AVEDA!), and a vet for our puppy. There are a million other, more important things I still need to find, but for some reason during our recent move, finding these four things put me at ease to tackle the rest of my very long to do list.

Be organized.
A list and a calendar are always helpful to me. The list gets really long, but checking items off of a list feels so good, and the list itself keeps me on track. Without my calendar, I would be lost! Keeping track of deadlines is an absolute must during a PCS. The reminders on my iPhone calendar are laughable on a normal day, but during a PCS, they are extra hilarious, with reminders like “finish the mayonnaise” at the top of the list!

Don’t be sentimental, it’s just stuff.
I’m not a ‘stuff’ person. If you are, that’s okay. I actually love the day the movers come, and the house is empty at the end of the day. When the movers arrive, I always tell them my goal is for the house be emptied, with no injuries in the process! I also tell them I like the items in my house, but it is just stuff, so if an accident happens and something breaks, it will be okay. I have said this numerous times to numerous packing and moving teams. One time, I thought the crew was going to faint! I really mean it: It’s just stuff! If something is really important to us, we move it ourselves.

Location. Location. Location.
Every time we move, I look forward to learning about a new place, or even rediscovering a place we may have lived before. I know this sounds overly optimistic, but it’s true for us! There are good things everywhere. The other positive point of a PCS is if you aren’t happy about where you live, or where you’re moving to, remember that you won’t be there forever. You will get to PCS again!

Friends are everywhere.
Saying goodbye to friends is one of the hardest parts of a PCS. I have learned there are friends everywhere. Maybe not lots and lots of friends, but I have found at least one absolute, real friend everywhere we have lived. I have also learned it’s okay to be selective about making new friends. Don’t rush into friendships because you live near a person, have kids at the same school, are part of the same unit, or have the same hometown. Being new to a community can be lonely at first, but be confident enough to find the right friendships. You want to truly be a friend to others and allow them to be a friend you. After you move around for a while, you find that you start to see some of the same wonderful familiar friendly faces again and again. The military community is a small world!

Is your military family on the verge of a PCS adventure? Are you excited or nervous? Tell us your tips for winning at PCSing!

Ann HPosted by Ann Hamilton, Volunteer Services Coordinator, South Region