There are respects in which military life and civilian life aren’t that different. Even members of our armed forces must deal with many of the same stressful life events as everyone else. Recent research has shown that among the most stressful events a person can face, even traumas such as divorce and a death in the family are less fearsome than a relocation. Indeed, just as many people consider public speaking to be a fate worse than death, pulling up stakes and moving is more emotionally taxing than planning a funeral.
All this means that a permanent change of station, or PCS, is not something you can expect to take with a stiff upper lip and phlegmatic determination. Undergoing a relocation represents a drastic change for you and your entire family, both nuclear and extended. It means new co-workers, new responsibilities, new schools for kids, and new weather to get acclimated to. Relocation is a reminder that a little novelty can go a long way—it’s too much at once that makes the stress so unbearable for many. But with the right strategies for how to prepare for your PCS move, you can successfully navigate the paperwork, logistics, and myriad frustrations that make moving in the military such a challenge.
Start Working On the Paperwork
Speaking of the commonalities between military and civilian life, one is that serving your country sure does involve filling out a lot of paperwork, just as if you were toiling away in some cubicle in a midrise suburban office building. As soon as you get your PCS orders, start getting to work on all the official bureaucratic mechanisms that go into a permanent change of station. Start blocking out leave dates for the big move. Get in contact with your new base’s family center to facilitate family-based aspects of the PCS. Most of all, your furniture isn’t going to move itself—you’ll need to start coordinating logistics.
Decide Whether To Personally Procure
When word comes down that you’re making a permanent change of station, you most likely had little to no say in the matter. With that in mind, the military will assume the necessary expenses involved in physically making the move to a new residence. If you’ve seen what moving companies charge civilians, you’ll see that this allowance is truly one of the benefits of military life. Of course, contracting third-party movers to safely handle (and refrain from misappropriating) your belongings requires a great deal of trust, one which, if you’ve had relocations go awry in your civilian life, you may be wary of extending once again. Fortunately, there’s a lucrative alternative for you to explore.
Consider that by now, you’re used to hard work, heavy lifting, and high pressure—all in a day’s work, right? If you feel confident in bringing those expectations to your move, you may choose to decline the military’s offer of professional movers and apply for a personally procured move, or PPM. In forgoing professional moving services, the military will pay you 95 cents on the dollar for what they would have paid the professional moving firm to load and unload on your behalf.
If you’ve been living spartanly and have able-bodied family members who are willing to assist in the move, you may not need the help at all. After accounting for the expenses of boxes and trucks, by effectively cutting your labor costs to zero, you may come out ahead on your move, courtesy of Uncle Sam. It never hurts to have a little extra pocket change to throw around once you get yourself properly situated in your new home.
Don’t Forget Your Gear
Everyone who undertakes a relocation seems to lose a thing or two—a video game slips through the cracks, maybe a box of dinner plates ends up misplaced in the basement. One thing you definitely won’t want to lose is your professional apparel. Because the military knows you can’t make a PCS without your gear, the weight of your military apparel, as long as your properly pack and inventory it as such, does not count against the total weight of your move. However, if your uniforms are getting a little worn out, your PCS might be just the occasion you were looking for to make an upgrade. Consider making a fresh start with a new OCP uniform, with Army, Space Force, and USAF uniforms for sale at our store. Just remember that when it comes to your awards and military literature, you definitely don’t want to start all over again—keep all your professional supplies close at hand throughout the move.
The New Base: Do Your Homework
To civilians who never set foot on base, there can be a certain elusive sameness that looms over all military operations, but on closer inspection, all duty stations are not alike. Part of your preparation process should be to educate yourself on your destination and what it has to offer your family. Furthermore, you’ll be interested in learning about both the base and its surrounding community. You should learn about off-base job opportunities, school districts, and quality of life. Find out how moving to a new state may require renewing or replacing professional certifications. This information will help you determine whether you want to live on base or off base, which is an important distinction when it comes to planning the move.
Start Preparing for the Next One
History has a way of repeating itself, and your personal military history will be no exception. Your first PCS is probably not your last. Once you know how to prepare for your PCS move, take those lessons and internalize them, because you’re sure to draw upon them again. Did you have a positive experience with a traditional assisted move? If not, you may want to attempt a personally procured move next time around. Conversely, if getting paid for a PPM wasn’t worth the gas, the supplies, and the stress, make sure to coordinate traditional moves in the future. Don’t forget the binder full of important documentation. And give some real thought to whether a PCS means new uniforms next time, too.