Wednesday, May 18, 2011

PCS Basics

PCS, for all of you civilians and new military folks, Permanent Change of Station is a concept that may seem foreign to civilians but actually, it is similar to taking a new job in a new city, usually far away but there are some vast differences.

Before I was married to the military, I worked for Verizon. After 2 years in my position as a sales rep in New York, an opportunity came up for me to move to Northern Virginia and a few years later another opportunity came up for me to move a little further south to Virginia Beach. Notice that I use the word opportunity. In my case, someone came up to me and tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Hey, would you like to go? This is a great opportunity for a better position, better pay, etc.". In the military it works a little differently.

In the military, we all know the day will eventually come when you get that proverbial tap on the shoulder but it is not a choice and it does not always include a better opportunity or better pay. Sometimes it comes with a deployment, a worse job, a better job,'s more like starting a new job with all of your records from your old job following you. That can be good or bad. Think about the job you had 20 years ago. Were you as responsible as you are now or did you slack off and show up late frequently? Were you a model employee or did you mouth off to your boss once too often? My husband has been in the military for over 20 years so when we approach a new duty station, all of his past follows him on paper so it's all a matter of who reads what and how they interpret it...could be good or could be bad.

We have been here at Redstone Arsenal, AL where my husband has been teaching new soldiers how to do their specific job (something related to ammo which I totally do not intend to bore you or myself with) for going on 2 years. The school is moving to Fort Lee, VA so we will be moving as well. We will not be moving with the school because we have been here for 2 years and seeing as this is a TRADOC (basic meaning=Training Post) 2-3 years is average stay at this type of post. We are moving to Fort Hood, TX which is a FORSCOM (basic meaning=Regular, deployable Army Post). Stays at a FORSCOM Post, especially a Divisional one like Fort Hood, can be years and years.

When I accepted the opportunity with Verizon to move, I got a chance to go to Virginia ahead, find a place to live and check things out. Ultimately, the move and all of the expenses were on me but I knew exactly where I was going, where I would be living, where I would be working and what job I would be doing. When I made my transition, I left my job on my last day at my old location and took whatever vacation time I needed to get my stuff moved and reported back to work at my appointed time. The entire process took almost no time or effort. The Army works quite different.

Initially, a soldier is told that he is going to be moving and he is verbally given the location. Usually this is done by the Branch Manager but in this case, because the entire unit is leaving, the Chain of Command provided that notification. We received our notification back in about December. Wait! Hold your horses though! Don't start counting your chickens until you have it in writing (We call it Orders). If you ever watch Judge Judy, you frequently hear her say, "If it's not in writing, it didn't happen". That is exactly the case because many, many changes are often made between the verbal notification and the Orders. We received our Orders in April so that should make it official right? Not so fast! The Army can change any orders at any time, up to and including the last possible second so make your plans but don't count on them.

My husband underwent the 3rd surgery on his right knee so we assumed that our Orders would be changed but we all know what happens when you assume. Long story short, we are planning our move to Fort Hood. Our report date is 1o July so we will be leaving Alabama on 24 June so that we can get to Texas, hopefully find a place to live and get semi settled before the long weekend so that my husband can sign in and not waste a 4 day weekend with leave (if you take leave...aka vacation time...during a holiday weekend, the holidays are still deducted from your available leave so avoid this move at all cost).

From now through our PCS process (it is definitely a process that must be followed meticulously as 1 misstep can have disasterous results), I will be updating and giving info on our daily progress and the steps that we are taking in this process. We have already completed some of the steps which I will give more info as we revisit them (everything gets revisited!) but as of now we have:

Met with transportation to set up our pack (yep, the military hires packers for you) and our pick up
Scheduled our clearing (checking out) from housing
Looked into prices for renting UHaul trailer for the DITY part of our move (will explain DITY move later)
Checked out options for shipping our 2nd vehicle
Guestimated our trip length
Got our paperwork completed to get on the housing waiting list
Looked into some options for off post housing
Started our "to do" lists which seem to grow by the minute...feels like every time we cross off 1 item, we add 4 more!

At this point we have 37 days to make this happen! Ready or not, here we come!

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