Tips to Ensure a Smooth Permanent Change of Station (PCS) Transition
Military families typically endure a PCS every three years, but the stress of moving a family – no matter how big or small – is always there. Here are five tips to ease the transition:
1. Do your research
Take every opportunity to learn about your next duty station. Talk to families who have lived there previously and learn as much as you can from their PCS experience. What went well? What would they do differently? Would they recommend on-base housing, or is there a favorite neighborhood they urge you to look into? You’ll find that once they start talking about their experience, the tips keep coming, and often times the most valuable ones tell you what not to do. Have you been told of congested traffic on base every day at 4 p.m.? Well then, it may be a good idea to plan your first trip to the commissary during late morning or midday.
Take advantage of resources provided to you, such as the “Go Guam” site and other base or region installation websites. Familiarize yourself with your location’s web presence and know where to seek information. Attend seminars or PCS briefings to prepare for the move. These are provided for you – please use them!
2. Get organized
Chances are that this is not your first PCS move. Still, the process of sorting through household goods and personal articles is always a challenge, as it seems to accumulate faster that we thought possible! Before the moving company arrives to estimate your move and advise you how much weight you’re allowed, we suggest you begin sorting through those items you will either want to take with you, place in storage or discard. However tedious and painful, it’s good to get ahead of this task before you’re scrambling to meet deadlines for the move.
And now for the other challenge – the paperwork. Health records, school records, copies of orders, veterinary records, household goods inventories, and other items must be safeguarded and easily accessible. Develop a system to ensure these items are not accidentally packed with your household goods shipment. When moving day comes, you’ll be relieved to know that you have a room set aside as a “No Pack Zone” for all that paperwork, carry-ons, travel gear for pets etc.
3. Don’t procrastinate
Start your research as soon as you learn of your new assignment location. The last few days before a move are stressful – there’s no way around it. There are, however, ways to ensure you’re not scrambling and tying up loose ends that could have been handled months ago. Make a list, use sticky notes, send yourself email reminders – do whatever you have to do to ensure you stay on track. Some overseas locations have a lengthy quarantine process, but can be expedited if the process is started early. If you plan to live off-base, check out local housing listings to get an idea of the market in your new location. Are you arriving during the typically busy PCS season? Can you expect to find a home immediately, or should you consider house-hunting early? Take all these into consideration, and get a head start where you can. Your sanity and your family will thank you!
4. Save money
Unforeseen costs may arise when least expected and desired, and a financial strain on top of a PCS move is a recipe for stress. Know which out of pocket and/or reimbursable costs you’ll be expected to pay. Are there reliable base and local transit systems, or will you need to rent a vehicle until your POV arrives? If you’re planning to live off-base, how much do landlords request upfront in addition to first month’s rent? Research these questions and begin setting aside money in a “PCS fund” as early as possible to ensure you and your family are prepared.
5. Get involved
Whether you are returning to a familiar location or exploring a new one, get involved with the local military community. Connect with your Ombudsman and FRG and become familiar with your spouse’s command. Learn about orientation programs on base, and in the community – especially if you’re stationed overseas. These resources are here for you - take advantage of them! You’ll ease your transition, meet friends (new and old), build your network and in no time, your new location will feel like home!