December 29, 2009
By Meredith Leyva and Erin O'Neill
Regardless of what your hubby does for the military, if you stick around anywhere long enough, you’re likely to move. While certain jobs or duty stations can make these transfers more or less frequent, moving is simply a part of military life—and one you should be prepared for. Since most duty assignments last for approximately three years, it should come as no surprise that the average military family moves…wait for it…every three years. These re-assignment moves are known as Permanent Change of Station orders, and are referred to as PCS moves.
PCSing is one part of the military on which there’s a great divide. Some spouses LOVE to PCS, getting a thrill from the excitement of going somewhere new, meeting people, beginning new adventures. Others find it to be chaotic and upsetting, an unwelcome and annoying hassle that interrupts their well-crafted routine. As someone who’s packed her fair share of boxes, I can’t say the process is something I love, but with a little planning and forethought it can be managed – with your marriage and sanity intact. Check with your husband a few months before your scheduled relocation to make sure you’re up to speed on all the paperwork (surprise, surprise, more paperwork!) and to make sure you both know when it’d be best to schedule the actual move. For more detailed info on this see our section below on PCSing.
Before we move—get it? Move?—into the nitty gritty details of the PCS process, we have a few overarching tips which will hopefully help to demystify the process and get you in the right frame of mind to make the most of your PCS, before you ever pack a box.
First, get schooled on PCSing. Most family service centers offer classes on the process (some are called Smooth Move workshops) which really do cover all the basics you’ll need to know. To make the most of them, plan to attend your class at least a few weeks before your move day. They’ll cover everything from labeling the boxes and filing the paperwork, to taking house-hunting leave and making sure you receive all the money you’re entitled to, to make the process easier. They also offer tips on making new friends, finding good schools for your kids and whether or not it makes sense to consider a DITY move or the standard TMO. (If you don’t know what we’re talking about, you definitely need to take this class!)
Additionally, invest some time and energy into learning about your new duty station before you arrive. Check out the Base Guides
on CinCHouse.com or the regional discussion forums
to learn more about your duty station (including info about and contact details for local housing, schools, activities, etc.) Make a list of fun things to do in the area or places you want to visit along the way on your trip there. Official information on the base can be found at www.MilitaryHomefront.org
. If possible, request a sponsor from your husband’s gaining command. The sponsorship program links up incoming service members who are new to a command or duty station with ones that are already there, who can fill you in on the real scoop of wherever you’re moving, and welcome you to your new home. They can point you in the right direction as far as places to live, schools to enroll in and even introduce you to your new friends and neighbors ahead of time, making you feel at home before you’ve even arrived. You can also check out the websites www.GreatSchools.com and www.schoolmatters.com to learn more about local schools, their test score comparisons and read reviews and ratings from local parents.
Do your best to look at this move as an adventure, a new opportunity rather than a chore, and try to make the most of wherever you’re stationed. Try to look on the bright side. Even if you really, really don’t like your new duty station, the good news is, you probably won’t be there long.