Category Archives: PCSing

Our First OCONUS PCS: Lessons Learned

PHEW! We just finished another PCS season. Congratulations to those who moved this past summer! We made it! And for those lucky ones who stayed put, you know what I’m talking about.

Confession: I’ve been with my service member for almost nine years, but this was our first official PCS together since we got married. Oh, and it was overseas. I did NOT know what I was getting myself into.

I’m sure many of you are familiar with all the PCS checklists out there; believe me, I think I read most of them. I noticed a few to-do’s that were missing though. Below are a few things I learned on my own during our most recent international PCS.

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Throw a party!
Not at your own house though and schedule it far enough in advance of your actual move! We opted for a local watering hole that was convenient for us and many of our close friends who would be attending. We scheduled our going away party about two weeks before movers came so we could enjoy ourselves.

Drive cross country!
We had to drive cross country since we were PCSing overseas with our dog. Fun fact: no commercial airline can guarantee they will fly a short-nosed dog (Pugs, Shih Tzus, Boston Terriers, Pit Bulls, etc.) in August due to the heat. So we made an unforgettable trip–with our Boxer in tow–by driving from northern Virginia to Seattle to catch our Air Mobility Command (Space-A) flight to the Asia Pacific region. We gave ourselves almost two weeks to follow the Lewis and Clark trail. We first traveled to Ohio to visit family, played tourists in Minneapolis, then followed the trail by driving around Theodore Roosevelt National Park in the North Dakota badlands, hiking Montana’s Glacier National Park, following the Columbia River Gorge, and ending in Seattle. This affordable trip is highly recommended for those history buffs, families with pets, and outdoor enthusiasts.

Your pet is worth it!
Pets are part of the family. My dog is my everything, yes, I’m a dog mom! No, I don’t have children but I’m pretty sure it’s a lot harder to PCS with a pet overseas than with five kids. Despite the countless trips to the vet to prepare for the move, it was worth it. We were extremely organized, which made the flight very easy. Flying AMC was very stress-free and extremely helpful with the pet. At each layover, pet owners were able to walk their pets and give them water. Once we landed, customs took only a few minutes and we took our dog straight to the kennel. It was a great experience.

Have a meltdown!
It’s okay, we’ve all been there. Sometimes you just need to cry it out.

When OCONUS, immerse yourself in the culture!
You only have a couple years in country, so make the most of it. Take advantage of the base’s language and cultural course offerings. Travel as much as you can. Time will fly by!

What would you add to this list?

Posted by Nicole Russell, National Military Family Association Volunteer, Japan

Tips and Tricks for a Successful DITY Move!

My husband and I just experienced our first true PCS move together as a married couple and we decided to do a DITY move (also known as a Personally Procured Move)! I will be honest: the idea of people in my home, packing my stuff and then moving it across the country made my Type-A personality incredibly uncomfortable. I have heard stories about moves gone bad. At least with a DITY, any issues were our own!

Some DITY best practices:

  1. Start early and clean out often. We had to really rationalize if something was worth moving…again.
  2. Pack up the seldom used items first and then decide if it might be time for a garage sale or to donate. This is a great time to pack them up those “necessary” wedding presents and promise yourself you will use them at the next place or put them up for sale!
  3. Shop where you can save time and money. Amazon Prime gives you access to 2-day shipping. I used Amazon for most of our packing materials. FYI: Packing materials are a reimbursable expense. You can also use Amazon Smile to have a portion of your proceeds go to the NMFA! Home Depot was my second go to for this move. I used a packing calculator to determine how many boxes we would need and ordered a variety of sizes. We kept all of our boxes from this last move and plan to use them again. The we picked up our rental truck from Penske. We chose Penske because they had the lowest rate overall, offered a 10% discount for booking online, as well as a 10% military discount when you pick it up in store.
  4. Don’t forget about your pets! Moving can be stressful for your animals, especially during a DITY move. Bring plenty of water, treats and food, comfortable bedding, and toys for your animals while traveling. Also, keep their vaccination records on hand and make sure their microchips and name plates are up to date. As for hotels, La Quinta will let up 2 pets stay for free in a hotel room and they even have dog potty stations at their hotels.
  5. Have help for loading and unloading. This was probably the most difficult part of the move. If we did it again, I would hire movers to load/unload the truck.

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Other tips:

  • Invest in plastic storage bins
  • Keep in mind that while weight is a crucial part of your reimbursement, the more items you add to your truck is more you have to unload when you get to your destination
  • Research weigh stations beforehand! The closest weigh station was 50 miles in the opposite direction from where we lived.
  • Don’t forget that some costs will need to be paid up front

Despite the difficulty of the move, it was nice to have all of our stuff as soon as we got here. Within 2 days, it already looked like home. We made sure to save our receipts for reimbursement and researched the rates to get an expected amount for per diem, dislocation allowance (DLA), mileage etc. We spent about $1,800 upfront and our reimbursement was close to three times that.

Would I DITY again? Yes, I would, and I would recommend it to anyone that is up for some hard work and adventure (or if they just want to ease their mind by doing it themselves).

Have you ever done a DITY move? Leave your tips for others in a comment!

Posted by Lesley Boatright, NMFA Volunteer, Fort Benning, GA, Army Spouse

How to Help an Anxious Child After a PCS Move

PCS season rush  is over. You have relocated, which means you found and moved into a new home in a new town with new people and are anticipating new experiences.

However, your child is anxious and may feel like they’ve lost control of their life because they have been removed from their school, friends, and home. They also may feel as if they have lost their sense of security, too.  As a military parent, I have sought out professional help from therapists and read countless books on how to help my child adjust and feel comfortable in their new settings.

Here are some tips that have helped my own children thrive after relocating:

  1. Remind them of their blessings: basic necessities met are considered blessings, such as shelter, food, water and clothes. Reminding them, but not comparing to those without, allows the child to realize that they are safe and in-control of their own environment.
  2. Point out the amazing and extraordinary activities, like traveling, visiting, and living in a place that might not have happened to an average child their age.
  3. Find ways to minimize anxiety by encouraging and facilitating ways your child can be an active participant in problem-solving their own issues.

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But not all problems are from the anxiety of moving. Sometimes, they’re just typical kid problems. And we’ve faced them, too. Here’s some helpful examples pulled from my own experiences as a military parent raising military children:

Riding the bus
If your child is anxious of riding the school bus, encourage the child to ask the bus driver to assign them a seat. The child will feel control in sitting in a seat that is assigned to him or her because it will give the child a sense of security.

Student-teacher personality clash
new school means a new set of teachers who are unaware of your child’s quirks. If your child is experiencing a personality clash with a specific teacher, help your child write a letter or note allowing them to express their thoughts and emotions in a constructive manner that is both helpful and progressive. The child has the ability to remind the teacher they are trying their best, promise to keep up, and desire a great school year. This will allow the anxious child to feel like an active participant in controlling their environment and situation with their teacher.

Neighborhood bully
If a another child is bullying youus, the best solution is to encourage your them to express their concerns to the child bothering them. Most military children already feel lack of control over their lives, it is not acceptable for their peers to restrict any more of their sense of safety and security. Remind the anxious child that making bold statements is hard but they were able to do it, which proves that they are strong, reasonable, and in-control of their own life.

If your child is the so-called bully, allow other kids to express acceptable and reasonable thoughts and opinions of your child’s behavior to them. As a parent, find ways to encourage group participation without leading the group. Help your child learn new ways to be cooperative without losing their autonomy.

If a child apologizes to yours, as a parent you should also feel as if they have apologized to you, too. Allow the children to solve their situation as much as they can on their own and only get involved when necessary.

Parenting is tough. None of this easy to do, facilitate, or encourage. However, we as parents, are given an extraordinary privilege to raise extraordinary children. Should you feel frustrated and need encouragement, I recommend speaking to a licensed professional. Military OneSource, TRICARE, and Give an Hour can assist you in finding a therapist who is ready to help you and your family thrive.

What tips would you give other parents with kids who are having a tough time after a PCS?

Posted by Fari Bearman, military spouse and NMFA Volunteer

Dear New Teacher, It’s My Military Child’s First Day of School

Dear New Teacher,

Today my child enters your classroom for the first time in a new school. It might be the first day of the school year, or it might be inconveniently smack-dab in the middle of a grading period. He likely knows no one in his homeroom class, likely no other children in the school.

Every child has a story to tell, and mine is no different. I am hoping to share a bit of his story with you since you will be with him, teaching and guiding him, this year. His story includes attending preschools in three different states. He will be in second grade next year. And he will be preparing to move again to a new school, his third elementary school since Kindergarten.

His daddy deployed to a combat zone when he was very young, and has been home for the past few years. But my son knows what soldiers do. He knows that someday his daddy will likely deploy again to a place he can’t yet find on a map for more days than he can count, for reasons nearly impossible for a child to understand.

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He didn’t choose this life.

But I asked him if he ever wishes that he weren’t a military kid, and he said, “No, why? What would Daddy do if he weren’t in the Army?” You see, this is the only life he knows. He is a happy, resilient, funny, sweet kiddo. I’m so proud of each obstacle he has overcome.

We do have bad days, though. He misses his old friends, our old home, our old church, and our old routines. He occasionally asks when we can go visit our old houses, and the restaurants and parks in a town we used to live in. To be honest, military life is downright difficult sometimes. But this is one thing I’ve learned: military children are so very strong. And so very brave. Military children are resilient. They simply don’t know how to be anything less.

Please keep in contact with me and let me know if he has any difficulties in school during (and after) this transition. The purpose of this letter is not only to inform you of my son’s background but to affirm our family’s commitment to support him, and you, his teacher.

Thank you for answering the call to educate the children of our great nation. What a truly noble and worthy profession you have chosen! Thank you for loving children who aren’t your own, and shaping their lives forever. And thank you for supporting our military-connected child, during yet another transition for him. Because of your support at school and the support of our community, my spouse is able to commit fully to his own calling: serving our country.

Sincerely,
Mama of a Military Child

What would you tell your child’s new teacher? 

teresa-bannerPosted by Teresa Banner, military spouse and NMFA Volunteer

“Go To Your Happy Place,” and Other PCS Lessons Learned Towing a Trailer

PCS season may be winding down for the majority of military families, with schools starting back, and pools getting their last straggling visitors. But for other military families, they’re still on the move! This summer, my family was one of the many leaving one community and arriving in another. We have moved a number of times, but I always learn something when we move.

This time, I learned about driving a vehicle with an attached trailer. My husband handles a majority of the move’s logistics, and this meant he was organizing our partially procured move. One day while I was really busy with a work deadline, a new recipe and maybe giving the dog a bath (not exactly all at the same time…but almost) he asked if I could drive our SUV and pull a trailer behind it during our move.

“Sure!” I said. I was obviously focused on something else. No problem! I didn’t give this another thought until my husband returned from the UHaul place with the trailer. The trailer was larger than I thought it would be. A lot larger. Uh oh!

Image: MovingInsider.com

What do you do when faced with situations like this? You ask another military spouse who has trailer-pulling experience! My good friend told me she towed a sail boat up the East Coast during one of their moves…in the middle of a hurricane! I thought she would certainly have some words of wisdom and comfort that would apply to my current situation.

“If something goes wrong on the road, just go to a happy place and don’t hit the brakes!” she shared.

I was really hoping for more substantial advice, but I honestly needed the laugh more than the actual advice. Thank goodness for good friends. She also told me I could absolutely do this.

The next morning, the trailer was attached to my vehicle and off we went. We were a two vehicle, two trailer caravan of two people and one slightly worried puppy. The dog was with me and may have sensed my “go to a happy place plan.” He is pretty smart.

Along the way I noticed something: I was not alone.

We stopped at several hotels and there were other military families all along our route. There were other military spouses with vehicles packed with children and suitcases and several of them were also driving a vehicle with a trailer. I wasn’t alone! This made me laugh. I looked around and thought, “If they can do this, I can too!

I may have been extremely careful, not ever putting myself in a position to need to go in reverse, but overall, we had a great trip. I was driving fairly intensely with no music in the vehicle, no driving too fast and I had a death grip on the steering wheel…but we arrived safely!

During our move I learned I can drive a vehicle and tow a trailer, if I need to. I absolutely learned I need to listen a bit more intently when we are dividing our move related tasks! I also learned to have a lot more respect for anyone who drives a really large vehicle for a living!

What have you learned during your recent PCS?

Ann HPosted by Ann Hamilton, Volunteer & Community Outreach Manager

How to Not be Inconvenienced When Your Household Goods are Late

We finally arrived at our new duty station and received the dreaded phone call, “Ma’am, your household goods have not left Colorado, and they will not arrive for another week and a half.”

Wait…what? Where are we going to sleep? What are we going to cook with? What are we going to wear since we only brought enough clothes for the three-day drive?

Enter the inconvenience claim. It covers actual out-of-pocket expenses incurred by service members and their families as a result of not being able to use household goods due to a late shipment. Now, this doesn’t mean a new set of Cuisinart cookware, designer clothes, dinners out at fancy steakhouses, etc. The expenses claimed must be reasonable and related directly to relieving a hardship suffered by you and your family.

What Things Are Covered?

  • Lodging
  • Meals
  • Laundry service
  • Furniture (within reason)
  • Appliance rental
  • Towels
  • Pots and pans
  • Paper plates and plastic ware
  • Clothes

How Do You File?
Inconvenience claims must be filed directly with the claim department of the moving company. It is essential to keep the traffic management office (TMO) at your destination, and the carrier’s delivery agent, aware of what is transpiring. Carriers are not required to settle or honor every inconvenience claim, but you are entitled to submit a claim and have assistance from the TMO. If the claim is denied, TMO can appeal the denied inconvenience claim to the carrier’s home office. If the appeal is unsuccessful, the case can be forwarded to the Surface Deployment and Distribution Command for review and final ruling. Two things that will disqualify you from submitting a claim are failing to have a delivery address for your shipment, or refusing delivery when you finally have a delivery address.

Key advice?
In our case, we were able to go out for dinner a few times, buy a saucepan and a frying pan, groceries, towels and toiletries, and one full outfit for each of us. While we could have stayed at a hotel, we had already signed for housing so we elected to buy two air mattresses. We had expense caps for each of the things that we purchased, and we had to save all of the receipts.

We learned how important it was to have everything in writing. My husband made sure to have all of our conversations with the moving company, TMO, and the carrier’s agent in emails. We used the post library to scan all of our receipts and to make copies to send to the appropriate channels. While we could have probably requested more, we decided to only take what we actually needed. In the end, we were fed, clothed, and taken care of.

Yes, it was an inconvenience for our family, but we made the experience an adventure. We learned we could never go off the grid and live minimally, so that item was crossed off of our bucket list! The check arrived quickly so we were able to go out and explore our new town and all that it offered. When our household goods were finally delivered, they were only minimally damaged. Score! And, since we had developed a good rapport with the carrier agent and TMO, the claim process for those damages went smoothly.

The bottom line is moving is tough on anyone, whether you have moved two or 22 times. Knowing you can file an inconvenience claim may provide a form of comfort during a stressful time.

Have you ever filed an inconvenience claim? What was the process like for you?

robyn_headshotPosted by Robyn Alama Mroszczyk, AFC, National Military Family Association Volunteer, Redstone Arsenal, AL

The Struggles of a New Military Spouse: I Signed Up For This

I became a military spouse 2 years ago, and I am still learning the “ways” of this new life! I thought I knew what I was in for–I grew up with my brother-in-law in the service, and saw all the things my sister did and experienced. Despite having that perspective, I was still in for a rude awakening! Yes, having some background knowledge was helpful, but it certainly didn’t give me everything I needed.

I think one of the biggest hurdles I still face is that my husband and I waited to get married until we were older. I was 34. Sometimes I feel like people think I know everything, or assume that I have been through enough moves or changes that I am a pro at this. That is so far from true!

This life is different, and not only am I not a pro, but I am just as scared and freaked out as the rest of the new spouses. I often find myself wondering where to find my “New Military Spouse” handbook?

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Sometimes I even ask myself, “What the heck did I get myself into?”

I dove right in at my first base, though. I became a Key Spouse and was very involved in unit activities. I always felt up-to-date on what was going on, and what was coming up, and found that I fit in with my new military family very well! Then, out of the blue (or what felt like out of the blue to me), we got our first PCS orders as a family! We headed to a joint base, with very little Air Force family and no unit, and I found myself lost and out of place.

This year, I am learning what it’s like to live on a joint base where I am surrounded by families from other services, instead of being immersed in our own branch of service. This is a very different experience for me, and one that has already taught me quite a bit in a short period of time!

For example, I am learning all the Army words for the equivalent offices, or buildings, I used a lot at our last base–PX instead of BX, Family and MWR instead of Family Readiness Center. I am still overcoming the “not part of a family” feeling and being in the dark about activities, either on this base or with my husbands office; he is not part of a unit, per se, so I don’t have the option to be part of anything.

Despite these challenges and the constant feelings of discomfort, I remind myself that we are on this wild ride as a family. I am privileged to be able to see so many new and wonderful places, and my children get to grow up with such a diverse culture around them. I have an amazing neighbor and friend that I am more than thankful for, and without her I would truly be lost. I remind myself (and I sometimes remind friends and family) that this IS the life I signed up for, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

How do you deal with feeling out of place in the military community?

Posted by Joleen Sickbert, Air Force spouse and National Military Family Association Volunteer