Tag Archives: moving

So you’re going OCONUS — what happens now?

So you're going OCONUS -- what happens now?Just over one year ago, we received orders for our upcoming PCS. Instead of the familiar post we anticipated—GERMANY was our destination! While unexpected, it was not entirely unwelcome. After all, an opportunity to live in Europe seemed too adventurous to pass up! Once our initial glee subsided, I was suddenly overwhelmed with questions, worries, and uncertainties. I pored over the tiny print in my husband’s orders thinking that there must be something in there to answer my questions or tell me what my next step was. (Take my word…there wasn’t much in there to help!)

Where would we live? Is it true the German homes are all tiny stairwell housing? Could I bring my minivan? Do I need to learn German? Do I need to leave all of my furniture behind in storage? How will we get there? What about the dog? Do I need to buy new electronic devices and small kitchen appliances in 220v? What the heck is Command Sponsorship? What is in a CS packet? Do we need passports? [Does your brain hurt yet? Just remembering all of this makes mine ache a bit!]

I searched the Garrison webpages and checked out the newcomer guides for bits of information, but I got frustrated trying to piece it together. I spoke with friends that had been OCONUS and made contact with a few people that were in Germany to find more answers. What I really wanted was for someone to take my hand, tell me to stop worrying and give me a few steps to get started in this crazy PCS process. Why wasn’t there a handbook titled “So You’re Going OCONUS?” Well, here it is, my fellow OCONUS adventurers and worriers…a handbook to get you started!

So, You’re Going OCONUS…

Step 1. Take a deep breath and squeal with glee because ADVENTURE is coming!

Step 2. Take a deep breath and hang on to your sense of humor, because getting there may be stressful!

Step 3. You have a million questions right now. Scribble them all down so you don’t worry about forgetting them and then put the list away for now. I promise, you’ll get to it ALL!

Step 4. Determine whether it is an unaccompanied tour or if you can apply for Command Sponsorship. Command Sponsorship means that the military command is sponsoring your extended stay in a foreign country. (Some locations, like Germany, are nearly all Command Sponsored. Other areas are required to be unaccompanied tours. Each area has different rules regarding length of tours, remaining time in service, etc.) Your Personnel Officer or Assignments Manager should be able to help you with this.

Step 5. Schedule a physical (or well-woman exam) for all dependents, if they have not had one in the last 12 months. For children under two, a well-child exam is required within the last six months. This is to ensure that everyone’s medical records are up-to-date.

Step 6. Schedule your Exceptional Family Member Program Screening. There is usually a packet of papers (medical histories, medical records releases, and developmental screenings) to fill out, so pick this ahead of time. If you have civilian providers off-post, the screening will likely also require records from those providers, so make sure you get record releases for them as well. The EFMP Screening is to ensure the area you will be living has adequate medical services for your family’s needs. The screening will usually be done at the nearest Military Treatment Facility.

Step 7. Start the passport process. Official passports are required for travel and can take anywhere from 6-12 weeks to be completed. You must apply through the passport office at your nearest military installation. They can be used to travel from the US to the country on your orders only. Tourist passports are recommended if you plan to do any additional travelling during your assignment. Bear in mind, birth certificates get mailed off to the Department of State with new passport applications. So, unless you have extra certified copies of your birth certificates, you must wait for one passport (with birth certificate) to arrive before you do the other passport. I would suggest applying for your official one first; without it you won’t go anywhere, but your service member still has to arrive by that report date! (Tip: Depending on the state, requesting extra certified birth certificates is easy to do online, inexpensive, and arrives quickly.)

Step 8. Start researching your destination! Contact the Relocation Office for information. Next, work those military friends! The odds are good that someone’s been there recently or knows someone who has; use those connections as a resource. Official and unofficial Facebook pages have popped up for each location. Try searching the installation name in Facebook and see what pages exist. Making contact with people in the area is a great way to get school recommendations, housing suggestions, get a feel for size/storage options in the new housing areas, etc. A word of caution: be sure to fact check any advice you are given with the appropriate agency before making any decision. (For example, check with Transportation before you sell all your furniture because Suzy Q. told you that you can only bring 2,000 lbs of household goods with you!) And, of course, be sensible with your personal information as you make contacts.

Step 9. Start looking at the calendar and think about your travel plans. Your transportation office will be able to give you delivery estimates for your vehicle, household goods, and unaccompanied baggage.

Step 10. Remember that list from Step 3? Get it back out and take another look at it. I’ll bet you’ve eliminated quite a few of your questions by now! Go ahead, congratulate yourself! And enjoy the adventure!

What tips would you offer to military families moving overseas?

Posted by Jennifer Herbek, Volunteer with the National Military Family Association

Helping military kids transition: the role schools and educators play

Helping military kids transition: the role schools and educators playEvery military family knows that moving is just a fact of life. My own family has moved more times than I care to count and my children, who are now 14 and 12, attended two preschools and five elementary schools. Being the new kid in school is normal for them, and like most military kids they have handled our moves smoothly – more smoothly than I have, in fact! Still, as a parent, it’s hard not to worry about the effects of so much change.

Military parents do their best to make moving as painless as possible for their children, but schools have a vital role to play as well. I know from personal experience that the new school can make a huge difference during those first days and weeks. After our last move, a greeter at the front door of the elementary school recognized immediately that my daughter was a new student and welcomed her with a warm smile and big hug on her first day. Her new classroom teacher matched her with a buddy to help show her around the school and sit with her at lunch. She came home all smiles and within a few short weeks it was as if she had never gone to school anywhere else.

Sadly, though, our good experience is not universal. Unless schools take steps to ease the transition for students as they move in and out, it can be difficult for highly mobile kids to fit in – and sooner or later, their grades will start to suffer. Knowing this, I have been excited to hear more about steps that teachers, administrators, and even our Nation’s leaders are taking to help our military kids. Last year, the Obama Administration, the Military Child Education Coalition, and the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education launched Operation Educate the Educators, an effort to get colleges and universities to include information on the challenges faced by military children in their teacher education programs. More than 100 higher education institutions are already participating.

Probably no school system has more experience with transitioning students than the Department of Defense Educational Activity (DoDEA). DoDEA teachers and staff are used to highly mobile students and treat transition as a normal part of life. They have developed routines to welcome new students and – just as importantly – say goodbye to children who are preparing to move away.

Some public schools with a high concentration of military kids have followed DoDEA’s example and adopted innovative strategies to help students transition. Schools can create newcomers’ clubs or match new children with a buddy. Other schools have gone even further and set up transition rooms, a type of welcome center for new families. There they can learn about school activities, community resources, receive a tour, fill out questionnaires about their needs and situation, and meet other parents and students. Another good idea is to appoint one staffer as a “transition specialist,” who can greet families when they arrive to register, keep track of whether new students are making friends, help students cope with a new set of school rules, and answer parents’ questions.

Moving is always going to be part of life in the military, but transitions don’t have to negatively affect our kids’ experience in school. Check out our Military Kids Toolkit section on Transition for more ideas to help make your child’s move a little bit easier.

What do you think schools should do to help military children transition? What has worked for you and your family? Share your experiences below.

eileenPosted by Eileen Huck, Government Relations Deputy Director at the National Military Family Association

Trash day: spring cleaning for PCS season

Trash bags: spring cleaning for PCS seasonI have a love affair with trash bags. Specifically trash bags full of junk my family has collected. I love the feeling of filling up those trash bags, hauling them to the curb on trash day, and purging the junk. It is unbelievable the amount of stuff we amass.

Don’t get the wrong idea. My family doesn’t get rid of the junk often enough, maybe once or twice a year. Usually in the spring. Ahh, spring cleaning and the beauty of lightening the load!

One of the gifts the military gives us is an opportunity to start over every few years. With each PCS move, we rummage through our household goods and either donate, sell, or throw away the things that weigh us down before we move on.

This time there were a lot of extra bags at our curb. It has been four years since my husband retired from the Service and eight years since we last moved. We recently purchased a new home and are in the process of moving. Imagine the junk we had stashed away in eight years.

Some of my favorite finds:

  • Baby stuff my boys had long out grown but I can’t part with
  • My grandmother’s childhood desk
  • High school yearbooks
  • My husband’s dress uniform
  • Pictures from my college days that I thought were lost

Some other finds had outlived their usefulness:

  • A box of cassette tapes from my years of rockin’ out with my boombox
  • Boxes of stationery (Who uses stationery anymore?)
  • My husband’s military record on microfiche
  • The Disney movie collection on VHS
  • All those curtains I’ve moved from house to house in case I could use them

How do you decide what to keep, sell, donate or throw away? What has been your best find?

michellePosted by Michelle Joyner, Communications Director at the National Military Family Association

MyMilitaryLife app for military families – updates and a new look!

MyMilitaryLife app for military families - updates and a new look!Have you seen the new updates to MyMilitaryLife? We now offer four new Life Paths—Raising Kids, Having a Baby, Moving, and Reintegration. Remember to answer the new questions that pop up when you visit these Life Paths and be sure to regularly update your profile information in order to have customized content available to you and your family. The more you fill out your profile, the better MyMilitaryLife can tailor information to your life.

In addition to four new Life Paths, we’ve also been working on a new look for the App! The new design features a swipe action and larger images to make it easier to navigate and discover the answers you’ve been looking for. Just swipe your finger right to left to progress to the next Life Path. Once in a Life Path look to the top left of the screen for easy access to the menu that includes your profile, favorites, alerts, help, and a shortcut to other Life Paths.

To get the latest look and additional Life Paths be sure to update your MyMilitaryLife App today. Android users will see the app updates automatically, but iPhone users must manually update the MyMilitaryLife App.

If you loved the old design, don’t worry – in the upper right hand corner of the App is an option to go back to the previous look. Personally, I love the new look and how user friendly it is to swipe from one Life Path to the next.

If you haven’t downloaded MyMilitaryLife, do so today to receive personalized to-do lists to help you navigate the many adventures of military life. MyMilitaryLife is available for free on Android, iPhone, and an online portal at www.MyMilitaryLife.org.

What do you love most about the new upgrade?

simmoneBy Simmone Quesnell, Content Specialist for MyMilitaryLife at the National Military Family Association