Moving to a new place can be difficult for any family, but it can be even more challenging for military families. The constant moves and deployments can wear on you – both mentally and physically. But there are steps that you can take to make the process easier – and in some cases, maybe even enjoyable! This article is about how to execute a military move when the government has ordered your household to relocate outside of its current location.
Types of Military Moves
There are two types of military moves:
- Permanent Change of Station (PCS); and
- Overseas Move.
A PCS move means that you are leaving for at least one year, whereas an overseas assignment can last up to five years, with extensions possible in exceptional circumstances. You will need to submit paperwork such as your DD-214 form, DEERS enrolment forms, orders, housing agreement (if applicable), and ID card application before moving day. If you have still not found a moving company for yourself, here is a list of moving companies for military families which are some of the best and most affordable. To avoid confusion on where everything should go during the packing process beforehand, make sure you label boxes clearly – so all hands know what goes into them! If there are children’s items involved, it might be helpful to have someone do this labelling for you while they pack things away (or at least make sure you take a picture of what is packed away).
Get Your Documents Ready Together for a PCS Move
Gathering all your documents can be overwhelming if you do not know where they might be kept. The last thing you want is for them not to arrive on time because something was lost in transit. To simplify things, try keeping important papers together so that everything will be ready when it comes time to PCS.
- The military will provide tour guides to help you find your new base and set up housing.
- You need a passport or visa before moving. Have the current one renewed if it expires during the process so that there are no delays when applying for a new one.
- Keep copies certain document (e.g. birth certificates, SSA cards, passports, etc.) in different places so they do not get lost – they are important documents!
- Birth Certificates: Make copies and keep them with all other necessary documents just in case something happens while overseas, such as being mugged/robbed.
- SSN Cards: Keep these with all other important documentation because sometimes people lose their wallets overseas, which means without this card, someone else could steal your identity information.
What your PCS orders include
- The date you will be leaving.
- Your arrival and departure locations.
- New rank, awards earned, or schools attended if promoted during the process.
If any changes need to be made at your new location due to some family emergency (e.g. sickness or death), contact a PCS Coordinator immediately for guidance on how to proceed with these adjustments. This is important because things can change quickly overseas – a few days in one country could mean weeks back home!
Your Moving Destination Also Matters
When you are moving for the military, the way your household goods get transported from “Point A” to “Point B” largely depends on whether your entire move will happen within the US states or internationally (includes Alaska & Hawaii).
- CONUS: A military person who wants to move from one CONUS (within the continental US) location to another CONUS location.
- OCONUS: Outside CONUS, e.g. Korea or Japan.
The Execution Process of a Military Move
1. Be Organised
Organise your stuff the way you want it to be unpacked when you move to your new home. Your new home most probably will not be the same as your current home so organising functionally may be useful (This means, for example, aggregating lamps, kitchen utensils, pots and pans, care items into separate boxes).
Be sure to pack your important documents too, like birth certificates and social security cards, in a secure box or envelope (which you should carry with you!). This will make it easier for you when you arrive at the new home because everything should be unpacked immediately.
2. Pick Out Everything You Need for the First Two Weeks
Everyone who has PCS’d will understand the following: on the day of departure, you are either frantically running around your house trying to find everything you have put away for storage or errands that need to be done before heading off.
Make a list of all the things you will need at home and abroad, including food items like canned goods, spices, oils, etc., toiletries (toilet paper is always needed), and any other personal care products. A good rule of thumb – make sure to have enough supplies for two weeks in addition to what is already stocked! You can also use this as a “packing list” for the day of your departure.
Find out what is available in the new location and, if appropriate, buy necessary items from there; it’ll make unpacking easier!
It is also helpful to have at least two weeks’ worth of clothing, shoes, toiletries, etc., on hand before moving abroad. This way, you can pack up everything pertinent into one box and bring that with you when PCSing back home or forward to another country without having to worry about packing all these things each time.
3. Consider Downsizing or Donation
Many military families hesitate to get rid of items that they anticipate will be needed when they relocate. For example, you may have things like a home gym or expensive hobby equipment such as golf clubs, water skis, and fishing gear.
Start by sorting through your clothes and shoes – get rid of anything worn out or no longer in style (they won’t wear well at an overseas duty station). Next, get some boxes to place any clothing and shoes in that are not too worn, but are also not favourites, for the next few years. You may wish to donate these items locally or otherwise sell them on one of the various selling platforms/apps.
Tackle other big-ticket items, for example furniture, when you know where and when your PCS will be.
Military move contracts often stipulate that movers must unpack your stuff and lay it out on a flat surface. The moving process can be time-consuming, and they may not start unless you ask. Most military families want the movers to be out of their house by a certain time. They will have all their kids’ food ready, they need to take care of pets, and they might already be exhausted from the journey. This step requires two members of the family, one should be at the door to sign off the boxes entering the house and the other quickly opening the boxes as fast as possible (or diverting the attention of the kids!). Ensure that the movers who are bringing boxes in can carry empty ones out on their way back. This will help you keep the house tidy, and it will also make you stop ignoring things that need to be done and make you deal with them right away.
There are many different ways to execute a military house move. It is essential to plan ahead and be prepared for the time-sensitive nature of PCS moves, which can often require an “all hands-on deck” approach from family members. One way that might work with your particular situation would be by assigning one member of your household as the process manager who will ensure everyone’s needs are met, keep track of deadlines and tasks, and assign responsibilities among other team members, so you are all ready when it comes time for relocation day!