Tag Archives: PCS

What to Expect When Your Move is Unexpected?

box-head-movingAs military spouses, we know to expect the unexpected. Yet, somehow the unexpected often catches me by surprise. Early one morning this past June, I was sipping my coffee and browsing the Internet for exotic European vacation deals. We were beginning the third and final year of our tour in Vicenza, Italy and I didn’t want to miss a thing.

My husband walked into the room holding his Blackberry saying, “We need to talk.” My stomach turned a bit. I knew something was up, but what would it be this time? “I’ve been offered a job in Georgia and I will need to report as soon as possible.” I can’t remember now if I ever answered, or if a flurry of questions about the kids, school, camps, scheduled trips, commitments and so much more simply filled my head.

There are many PCS resources available for military families, but I couldn’t find the one that told us how to successfully complete an overseas PCS within 3 weeks.

Week 1, we scheduled movers, scheduled our flights, spoke with the schools and frantically began researching the city that would be our new home. This move was really happening.

Week 2, purging and organizing was the name of the game. Every closet and room was accosted by every family member – talk about some special bonding time. Week 3 came quickly, the movers arrived and we moved into the hotel on post. Two years had gone by faster than I had realized. Goodbyes are hard, but I found that the unexpected goodbyes were even harder.

Days later, we headed to the airport in the early morning hours. After flight cancellations, delays, and a myriad of other travel issues, we touched down in Atlanta, GA. We had arranged to stay the night with some friends. One night quickly turned into 6 weeks. That’s right… my husband and I, our three children, and our 80-pound Bernese mountain dog moved in with our civilian friends for 6 weeks!

We bought and closed on a house in record time. We balanced work, illness, surgery, and the every-day adjustments due to moving back to the US after our European stay. We registered the kids for schools, sports, and activities in hopes of making some connections before the school year began. As many of you experienced this summer, our car shipment was delayed and our household goods came later than expected. Somehow, as military families often do, we got through it.

There were frustrations and tears mixed with adventures and memories that make me proud of how this lifestyle has molded our family. Each of our children has struggled in one way or another. I could actually write on and on about the pain of watching the kids struggle with what has been the most difficult move each has experienced.

The first quarter of school just ended and autumn has begun. Military kids are resilient and mine are adjusting and thriving and handling struggles as they come their way.

I still find it hard to believe that we completed an overseas PCS in 3 weeks, but we did. I have learned once again that military kids are strong, my husband is a patriot that is honored to fulfill his military duty, my friends are like family, and that home is where the Army sends us.

Kim-EdgerPosted by Kim Edger, Website Architect

Survive and Thrive in Pensacola, Florida!

Let me start by telling you that they don’t call it “The Emerald Coast” for nothing! Before moving here, Pensacola never really showed up on my radar. I hail from Jacksonville, Florida, and went to school in Tallahassee, only 150 miles away from home. I knew of Pensacola only by way of mandatory history classes growing up. Until my husband received orders to NAS Pensacola, I had no idea how awesome this little town really is.

sunset-grille-pensacola

You see, the survive part has been easy for me. It’s the thriving that is a challenge. Our last two duty stations were learning curves. And they weren’t all fun. I didn’t make friends easily, my expectations were out of this world, and in the beginning, I struggled to find meaningful employment.

So when it came time to pack up and go, I planned to make the best of our time here.

If you are a Navy or Marine Corps family, there’s a good chance you may land in Pensacola at some point in your career. Home to A-Schools, flight schools, training squadrons, and even the world renowned Blue Angels, Pensacola is the perfect mix of everyone…and beautiful beaches to boot.

It’s true—we live where you vacation.

But when it comes to making the best of a PCS move and thriving in your new town, I think Pensacola has been a great place for me to spread my wings, meet new people, and even find a life outside of the military. Here are some tips should you find yourself on the Emerald Coast:

Consider community service.
Weeks after moving here, I knew I wanted to get involved in a community service organization. What better way to get to know a new city, make business connections, and find some great girlfriends who like wine as much as you? I joined the Junior League of Pensacola and haven’t looked back. Aside from giving back to a community that supports the military, I’m setting myself up for success when our next PCS comes. Most cities have community service organizations; the Junior League is no exception. Once I move, I’ll be able to transfer to a new League location and boom! Like-minded, service-oriented, and wine-loving friends await!

junior-league-of-pensacola

Become a self-proclaimed Foodie!
Arriving in Pensacola, I quickly figured out this is a food-loving town. From food festivals to a $100 burger at a local Irish watering hole, Pensacola is the perfect place to make a foodie bucket list. And ALWAYS try the hole in the wall restaurant. Most times, they don’t disappoint! One of my favorite Pensacola-area treats is The Gulf, a beachside restaurant made entirely from old shipping containers and located just 20 minutes away in Orange Beach, Alabama. Al Fresco Airstream trailer ‘food trucks’ in downtown Pensacola are perfect for a quick, fun, and relaxing sunset dinner. And you have to try the East Hill Yard Wine and Taco Hospital. Yes. You read right…built in an old hospital from 1914, The Yard now hosts a relaxed atmosphere with lawn chairs and yard games. Rumor has it: the bathrooms are in the exact spot where the morgue used to be!

al-fresco-pensacola1

Activities on base really aren’t that bad!
You won’t find many crafting parties, or Bunco nights here. But in one day, you can become qualified to drive a boat (then rent one the very same day), run a 5k, and climb 177 steps to the top of the working lighthouse on NAS Pensacola. Surrounding bases like NAS Whiting Field, Correy Station, and Saufley Field also have similar fun events! For me, I decided to get involved with my husband’s command by volunteering to be the new Ombudsman. I knew it would be a great way to meet other families in our command (which is very small), and also be able to find out all of the services our base has to offer. In my free time, I love taking advantage of the open gym nights on base. Tuesdays and Thursdays are for volleyball, which is my stress-reliever!

macy-on-base

We hear it every time we PCS, “Submerse yourself in your new community!” I hated hearing that because it always seemed so hard. But not in Pensacola; it’s a relatively small town, and there is so much to do and see! Take advantage of all the opportunities around you, and don’t be afraid to drive 30 minutes for good food…it’s always worth it!

And of course, on days when you don’t want to do anything, the white sand and emerald waters are only minutes away!

Have you ever been stationed in Pensacola, Florida? What were your must-do’s?

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager, Pensacola, FL

All Roads Lead to the Pentagon…I just didn’t know I’d be Driving!

map-of-washington-dcFor many military families, a PCS to Washington, DC is an inevitable stop in a service member’s career, and from some perspectives, viewed as a necessary evil. For me, raised in DC’s military suburbs, it would have been returning home. And as a career civil servant, it represented a virtual mecca of job opportunities compared to alternatives like Fort Rucker, AL or Fort Bliss, TX.

But when my active-duty husband, an E-8 in the US Army, received a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in Spring of 2013, a PCS to anywhere, much less the Nation’s Capital, seemed unlikely. MS is considered a Service Connected disability, so the only trip the Army had planned for my husband was the long and winding (read: a year and four months counting) road of a medical board and an official status of “unfit for continued military service.”

I’m not going to lie, the diagnosis and its aftermath were hard. Imagine being told you have an incurable neurological condition, and are being removed from your position, becoming non-deployable persona non gratis in your unit. Then you hear, “Thank you very much, but after 22 years we no longer require your service,” all in just a few months time.

We had a rough year, but after being transferred to Fort Campbell’s Warrior in Transition Battalion (WTB), things started looking up. My husband started getting the medical treatment he needed and receiving the compassion he deserved. We started looking forward to the reality of transition from military life, with the primary wrinkle being that we weren’t sure if my husband would be able to work, or what type of work he might be able to do.

I am a planner by nature and by trade. Since childhood, in somewhat paranoid fashion, I’ve developed plans and backup plans for unforeseeable scenarios that, more often than not, never came to pass. But this time, my fastidious obsession with maintaining my own professional career, along with my husband’s, had panned out. I was ready and able to step up and support our family, even in the unexpected scenario where he might not be able to work.

About a year into the medical board, I started applying to positions, since everyone at the WTB insisted that the medical board would be completed, “any day now.” To my surprise, and in record time for a government hiring action, I was offered a position for the first job I ever seriously applied for. Great! But, now we were in the unfortunate position of me having to relocate to a position in DC, while my husband was still stuck in the quagmire of the VA disability ratings process. We didn’t want to be separated, but who knew if his ratings would come in tomorrow, or if I’d have another opportunity like this one. So I accepted the job, but delayed my start date; meanwhile, he started making pesky inquiries about his ratings status.

And then, by a benevolent force that I never knew existed within the DoD, the fine staff of Fort Campbell’s Warrior in Transition Battalion worked out a miraculous transfer for my husband to Fort Belvoir’s Warrior in Transition Battalion to “accompany me” to my new duty station. And they turned the paperwork around in about two weeks! For me, that is concrete proof the Army really does care about transitioning Soldiers and families.

So here we are in NOVA, living the dream; it’s just a dream lived in a different way than the one most military families experience. Yes, it’s a dream that involves living in a home half the size for double the price, but one with a life lived at the center of it all, in a place littered with symbols of the freedom my husband has fought for over the last two decades.

My new job isn’t actually in the Pentagon, but work requires visiting occasionally. I went last week and stood in the hallowed halls (and drank a tall iced caramel macchiato at the Starbucks), and thought about our military journey. My husband’s career didn’t end the way we thought it would, but our path still brought us here, to the center of the military world. That’s the thing about transition…you don’t know where it will lead you, but you will find your way, and there’s a whole world out there to discover.

Posted by Laura Eileen Baie Yates, National Military Association Volunteer, Fort Belvoir, VA

America the Beautiful: Our PCS Roadtrip

badlandsMany people have to wait until their retirement years for the opportunity to drive an RV cross country to see our magnificent country. One of the benefits of military life, thanks to PCSing, is seeing many places you might not have traveled to early in life.

My husband and I were stationed at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, in Oak Harbor, WA. Our next duty station would be clear across the country at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, NC. Having missed out on our last cross country move because I was working in Washington DC, I was so excited to make this trip together with our pets. We were looking forward to seeing many of the iconic wonders of the United States.

We loaded our vehicle to the brim, like most military families do, and made our way to Walla Walla, WA, an area known for its Washington wines. We tried many different types of wines, called varietals, before calling it a night. The next day, we headed for Yellowstone National Park. We opted to take the scenic route through Idaho, called the Lewis and Clark trail. The picturesque and peaceful drive ended with an overnight stay at a little gem surrounded by snow covered roads, called Lochsa Lodge. They had the best pancakes I have ever tasted: huckleberry. We continued on our way the next morning, finally arriving in Montana.

buffaloLocated near the small town of Gardiner, MT, the North Entrance of Yellowstone National Park is the only entrance open year round to vehicles. Since we were traveling at the beginning of April, the interior of the park was still closed. But the little town of Gardiner had a surprise for us when we arrived: elk grazing everywhere!

We entered the park and stopped off to chat with the park rangers. They advised us to be cautious, since animals were constantly moving around the park. As we began our drive through Yellowstone, we encountered an entire herd of buffalo on the road! As we drove slowly through the packs, the buffalo walked right past our car… if we opened our windows, we could have touched them! Throughout the drive, we saw plenty of other animals – buffalo…okay, tons of buffalo, a 14-point elk, coyotes, and bear tracks. Fortunately, we never did see a grizzly bear that left the tracks!

Yellowstone was very quiet and had hardly any visitors when we drove through. It was, by far, the best time of year to visit since the crowds were thin. This allowed us to relax in the awe and beauty of the park. We finished our day at Yellowstone by soaking in a nature made “hot tub.” We walked a half of a mile to the Boiling River, a place where the hot water flows into the cold river. Many bathers love to soak in this natural creation, complete with incredible rock formations all around.

mt-rushmoreOur next destination was Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. After getting a recommendation from some locals in Gardiner, we took a sunset drive through the Badlands National Park. The striking geological deposits in the Badlands contain one of the world’s richest fossil beds, and with its rugged terrain, you feel like you’re driving through a science fiction movie. Here and there, we saw bighorn sheep grazing on the rock formations. Being surrounded by such stunning landscapes, I wondered why no one ever recommended the Badlands before now. We eventually made it to Mount Rushmore, which was iconic, and definitely a must-see place on any cross country adventure.

The next part of our journey was all about reconnecting with friends and family we hadn’t seen in quite a while. We stopped in Nebraska for a steak dinner with my old roommate, and then made our way up through Michigan towards Toronto, Canada, which was the most direct route to my college town of Albany, NY. I looked forwarding to visiting some of my best friends, and their families, whom my husband had never met! Before making it to Albany, we stopped on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls to take some photos with the falls still bathed in its winter glory.

We took a few days of much needed rest, and then drove a scenic route through New York to Massachusetts, and ended in Bridgeport, CT. Before we boarded the ferry to Long Island to surprise my family, we indulged in some lobster rolls and mac and cheese! Prior to moving to Whidbey Island, much of our family had not seen us since our wedding in September 2012. Our huge surprise visit was complete with some tears from my grandmother!

niagra-fallsWith the entire U.S. behind us, it was so much to be back in all the areas we have visited many times before.

Our next destination was town where my husband and I met, and where family and friends awaited our arrival: Washington DC. We had a few days to visit some of our favorite places in DC, especially Fado’s, the Irish bar, in Chinatown, where we met.

We had one more stop with more family in Virginia Beach before making the last leg of the journey to North Carolina. We got to play with the dogs on the beach, catch up with family, and rest a little from our long journey.
After 4,500 miles, we finally arrived in Cherry Point, North Carolina – our new home.

We were very fortunate and extremely grateful for the time we got to spend with each other, and our pets, on the journey. If your military travels require you to move across the country, I hope you take advantage of the possibilities that await you! Visiting with family and friends all across the country, and seeing some of the most magnificent places America has to offer was incredible. It’s one of those memories I will forever keep etched in my heart.

Posted by Nicole Messmer, National Military Family Association Volunteer, Cherry Point, NC

Orders? Check. Map? Check. Engagement Ring? WHAT!

moving-boxesWhile a permanent change of station (PCS) might not be the most glamorous aspect of military life, it does offer a unique opportunity to explore new parts of the world. Before we were married, my husband and I took advantage of a cross country PCS as a chance for an epic road trip.

We met just as he was re-deploying from a year tour in Afghanistan back to Fort Drum, so we spent the year traveling back and forth between where I was living in New York City and upstate New York, where he was stationed… all the while falling in love.

I knew it was only a matter of time until the Army would throw a curveball our way.

When orders came down for him to go to Korea, my heart sank. Because he was changing to a different military occupation specialty (MOS), he would need to first PCS from Fort Drum to Fort Huachuca for schooling before going to Korea.

We saw this pending PCS as an amazing opportunity to road trip across the country.

The quickest route from New York to Arizona was 2,381 miles with an authorized 7 days to travel (350 miles a day). We based our route on two important stops to visit family and picked interesting places in between. To keep on schedule, we used Google Maps to drop ‘pins’ at the 350-mile markers, making sure to drop pins at places we wanted to see. We also booked our hotel stays ahead of time. That saved us from having to depend on the area to find lodging, and gave us the opportunity to bank on hotel rewards points.

google-map
On the way to Gulfport, Mississippi, we saw the sites in Chattanooga, Tennessee and Birmingham, Alabama. After three days in Gulfport visiting family, we were on the road again. Our next stop was Austin, Texas, my home city. It was a quick trip because we had big plans to drive to the Grand Canyon from there, but during our stop at Albuquerque, we ate some bad New Mexican food and spent an extra day recovering at our hotel room. We adapted quickly, and rerouted our path to go straight to Sierra Vista, Arizona. Without a willingness to adjust based on travel luck and circumstances, any PCS road trip would be incredibly stressful!

Seeing the scenery and landscape change from each region of the country was by far the best experience of our trip. I loved seeing the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, and then driving through the swampy Gulf Coast. The dessert area of West Texas, New Mexico and Arizona were amazing to see, too.

At the very end of our road trip, in our hotel room in Sierra Vista, my boyfriend proposed to me!

Little did I know, during our visit to see family, he asked for their approval. My entire family knew his proposal was nearing, and were in on the secret! He planned to propose during our day at the Grand Canyon, but in typical Army fashion, he improvised!

We were married in a courthouse during his leave to Korea, and had a church wedding when he arrived back. Although life in the military can be unpredictable, it opens up new opportunities around every corner. It’s up to us to seize the moment!

Do you have a fun PCS story? Send it to us at Blog@MilitaryFamily.org to have it featured here on Branching Out!

rachel-marstenPosted by Rachel Tringali Marston, Army Spouse

5 Ways to Cope With Kids’ Stress During a PCS Move

little-girl-in-boxThe other day I was driving with my two daughters to Walmart for a much needed grocery trip. From the back seat my four-year-old daughter, Whitney, asked for a drink of the diet soda I had sitting in the center console.

“No, you can have some water instead,” I responded.

She flung herself into a full game-on tantrum, sobbing a dramatic performance worthy of an Oscar. It was one of the worst tantrums in a long, long time. We arrived at Walmart and I was relieved to get out of the confined space. But right there in the middle of the street she firmly, stalwartly, planted her feet, still crying hysterically. In we went, crying, screaming Whitney and all.

When the fit continued inside Walmart, I threw my hands up in surrender. This could not possibly be happening over denying her soda. I say no to soda all the time, only allowing sparing sips. Then it dawned on me. She must be stressed out about our quickly approaching 1500 mile permanent change of duty station (PCS) to Fort Bliss, Texas.

And it makes sense, really. A few days after talking to her about moving to Texas, she had a bed-wetting accident twice in one night; the first and only time she has ever done that. Plus, my husband and I have been stressed and emotionally strung-out lately. I know now that she is feeling the trickledown effect with our pending move.

I knew that I needed to create a strategy of keeping a happier home. After some careful thought, I came up with this short list of five ways we deal with child stress during our PCS.

Stick to the routine.
Kids thrive on routine. It’s often hard for me to stop what I’m doing to pick up a book and look into my daughters’ eyes for longer than a nanosecond knowing that I have a moving to-do list up to my ears. Try. Try to welcome the break the best you can. Do it for the littles.

Recognize the emotion out loud.
Young children do not understand what they are feeling. If you put a word to the emotion, it may help them come down out of the red. When my youngest gets extra loud, I explain, I know you’re angry about Whitney not letting you play in her bedroom. That must make you feel sad. KidsHealth.org says, “putting feelings into words helps kids communicate and develop emotional awareness — the ability to recognize their own emotional states.”

little-girl-packing-PCS-boxListen and move on.
While waiting out the Walmart tantrum, Whitney surprised me by taking a breath between sobs (finally!) by saying, “Mommy, I got so mad when you said no to me drinking your soda.” This made me listen to her frustration, talk about it, and move past the stressful moment. Later that evening, she told my husband about her Oscar-worthy performance.

“That’s right,” we said. “That wasn’t a happy moment, and we know that made you feel upset. Now it’s time for bed. Tomorrow will be a new day to laugh and play.”

Involve them in the process.
Allow your children to pack their special items in their very own box. Place it last on the truck, and unpack it first when you arrive. This demonstrates that all of your things from your last home have arrived at your new home. If you hired movers, bling the box out with stickers so it stands out. Or, keep it in your personal vehicle for easy access.

Dance.
When all else fails, have a living room dance party. Seriously! Who can stay mad or stressed when you’re dancing crazy to your favorite songs?

Do your kids show signs of stress before a pending move? What tips and tricks work for your family? Share it with us in the comments!

erin-bettisPosted by Erin Bettis, Army spouse, National Military Family Association Volunteer, Ft. Bliss, TX

 

Military Family Moves: What’s In Your Locker?

lockerNew orders. New home. New start.

For me, there’s something kind of refreshing about PCSing. It’s like the first day of high school all over again. What will it be like? Will they like my outfit? Will I fit in? How will I decorate the inside of my locker?

Decorating my locker was always the hardest part. So many options. Do I want to commit to NSYNC or Backstreet Boys? A magnetic dry erase board or a cork board with cute thumb tacks?

Like I said, so similar to a PCS move…clearly.

So, when it came time for us to PCS a few months ago, I had all the same anxieties I did on the first day of high school. After I jumped in, made some friends, and made my claim on the best lunch table (read: best local watering hole), things started feeling normal.

Until I started to unpack my house and decorate the ol’ “locker.”

There were 10 different pairs of curtains, 8 different curtain rods, beachy-themed décor, manly rustic décor, and mismatched picture frames a plenty. And don’t get me started on the pillows. Oh, were there pillows. The guys who came to pack our house mentioned they hadn’t seen so many pillows in quite a while. (Consider my love of pillows the adult version of my teenage love for NSYNC: Obsessive and slightly embarrassing when someone calls you out on it.)

It was then I realized I had no idea how to redecorate our new house. A smorgasbord of Pier One, Home Goods, and Ikea lay strewn about my house, like puppies waiting for a good home. But the truth was I had no idea where to start.

So I didn’t.

Finally, one day, I just decided to embrace all the mismatched crap. (That should be a bumper sticker: Embrace the Mismatched Crap.)

I started spray painting this, reupholstering that, swapping pillows here, and moving knickknacks there. Sure enough, my empty locker started screaming my name…it felt like MINE. Yet, there was one room I just didn’t know what to do with – our Master Bedroom.

We can change that.

Our Association is teaming up with design firm Laurel & Wolf, to honor military spouses and all of our mismatched crap! (Well, not so much the last part, I guess.)

Laurel & Wolf is giving away a free Master Bedroom Makeover design, plus some FREE décor from some awesome home goods companies!* It’s easy to enter, and anyone who does receives 10% off a Laurel & Wolf Classic Package!

That’s the thing about PCSing, with each move comes the new chance to make it yours. For me (and most of my fellow milspouses), this means making our house a home, and quick. All of the other stuff seems to fall into place once my house is unpacked.

Now the only decision left is: How will you decorate your locker, er, Master Bedroom?

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Online Engagement Manager

 
 
*Laurel & Wolfe contest submissions are due by May 7th.