first PCS, what to expect?

Nicole - posted on 12/28/2009 ( 14 moms have responded )

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My husband is Air Force, and we're about to do our first PCS from Virginia to Missouri in February. They didn't give us much notice, he found about it in October and here it is the end of December and he still doesn't have "hard copies" so his orders aren't even official yet! I don't know what the hold up is, I'm afraid we'll have to do everything at the last minute. Anyway, this is our first PCS, what can we expect? I've got some info from briefings and literature, but I want to hear about it from people who've actually done it!

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Jennifer - posted on 12/30/2009

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Hi! My husband is Army, and we did MY first PCS in December of last year from Washington state to Hawaii. We had only been married a couple of months (both divorced), and he had 12 years of service when we did this. My ex-husband stayed at Fort Hood the entire 7 years we were together, so I never got the experience with him. What an eye-opener it is! We got his final/corrected orders at the end of November just prior to Thanksgiving, he got his notification in October. My husband wished for one last snow before we left, and we ended up doing all of our PCS'ing in 14 inches of snow, at the very last minute possible. The best pieces of advice I can offer you are:

Orders are the most important thing to get taken care of. Without them, you can't do anything.

Start saving money, as much as you can between now and the time you PCS. We're already saving for our next one, and it's quite a ways off. LOL

Since it's not too late, inventory everything! Take pictures if you can and write down all your model/serial numbers.

Keep an eye on your movers. They will pack everything that is not nailed down, and that includes food.

Have them pack everything. Even if you think you might need something, it's easier and cheaper to buy another one and donate it than to ship it separately.

Anything that you don't want broken or that is extremely fragile or valuable, pack yourself. Yes, you can do this, the movers will notate it on your inventory sheet that you packed it not them.

Get rid of any and all garbage or items that you do not want to take with you BEFORE your movers get there. Otherwise, it will end up going with you.

Pick a room in your house with a locking door. Clean it out of everything that you want to be packed, and then put the stuff that you will not be having the movers pack (ie clothing, personal hygiene items, etc), in that room, LOCK the door, and put a large sign on the door that says "DO NOT PACK".

If you have a pantry of sorts for your non-perishable food (and if you don't want to take it with you), make sure all of your cupboards are cleaned out BEFORE the movers get there and moved into the pantry. Tape it in an X over the doors and also with a sign that says "DO NOT PACK". Otherwise, they will....lol My husband found a stick of butter that sat in a box (and melted all over it) for a year while he was deployed to Iraq.

Make sure you check over the inventory sheet very carefully. Even if they complain (and they will, especially about other families), double and triple check it. If you don't like the way they pack something or notate something. MAKE THEM FIX IT ON THE SPOT. Otherwise, you'll end up opening a box labeled "KIDS CLOTHES" only to find tools and kitchen stuff, and not single piece of kids clothing inside.

Do not let the movers rush to pack your stuff, no matter what they tell you or how much they complain about you or other families.

Make sure you set aside all of your husband's pro-gear (everything including uniforms, books, tools, computer stuff, etc~anything that he uses for work), and that they label it as pro-gear.

The briefing will tell you that there is a limit on the weight of your pro-gear, but there really isn't. Just max out both your regular weight and pro-gear weight, Just to be on the safe side.

Make sure that your movers give you a copy of your inventory and sensitive items sheets. It should not be completed/signed until the last box is taped and loaded in the crates and the crates are sealed and initialed. Otherwise, you'll find it in a box a year later, and have nothing to verify that you get all of your stuff when they deliver it.

COUNT YOUR CRATES ONCE THEY'RE PACKED AND LOADED ON THE TRUCK!

Oh, and as soon as you get his orders, go to JPPSO to get your appointment for pack out. PCS season (with the Army at least) runs Dec-Feb, and May-Jul, and these are the busiest times, so you'll have to act quickly.

PCS'ing really isn't that bad, we just had the misfortune of getting a bad moving company. A year later, we're just now discovering that they only delivered half of our stuff, on top of the almost $10,000 worth of damage that they did to our stuff that we received, AND they sent us a bill for $3600! LOL We are in the process of getting it resolved, but I'm sure you know, the military takes forever when they owe you money....LOL I've already started doing my inventory of what I have left, and taking pictures, and we're not schedule to PCS for at least a year and a half......LOL

Most importantly though, just relax, and remember, it's just stuff, and most of it can be replaced. At least they're not packing up family members! Oh, that reminds me, make sure that if you have kids, they're not there playing in the boxes..........you never know what might happen! LOL Good luck, happy New Year, and feel free to message me if you'd like to know anything else.

Loran - posted on 12/29/2009

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Hi Nicole! Welcome to the Air Force! Your first PCS is so exciting! My first was to Alaska. (I miss it.) My husband and I married when he already had 12 years in the service, so for him it was old hat. I was psychotic. The BEST tool that I found was at the Maxwell AFB/Air University site. It's a several-month checklist for moving. Of course you can speed things up, but it helps remind you of everything that has to be done. (Well I just searched and it's not there anymore. : ( But I googled it and found it under another site. Here's the link: http://www.military.com/Resources/Resour...)

Don't worry about the orders. It's typical to not have the "official" orders till late in the game. AND you can't put your name on any list with housing until you have 30 days or less till you arrive. When you're in TLF it's like a cramped apartment. You get one leaving and arriving. Leaving, you get 1 or 2 nights, think 1. Arriving, you get up to 30 days before you have to pay for it literally out of your own pocket.

Your husband should have a government travel card. If he does, he can charge everything on the trip to it, and then wait for the reimbursement and pay the card off. If you do a TMO full move, you can have EVERYTHING done for you; packing, loading, shipping, unloading, and even unpacking and removing the boxes and packing materials. Make SURE you make a list of EVERYTHING that goes in each box. Get some friends to help because there will be several packers and you'll need one friend/family member per packer. If you don't have EVERYTHING notated on the bill of laden, then they don't have to reimburse you for it if it gets damaged or lost. Somehow the company did not pack the lampshade to one of our lamps. But only the lamp was listed, not the shade, so they wouldn't buy us a new one. Your things WILL get ruined. Start facing the facts of life right now. They have to pay you to replace or repair everything though. (If it's on the list!) Our couch was torn on the way to Alaska. They had shoved it into the container and tore the front lower panel. We just figure we'll buy new when the kids are old enough not to ruin them. And we pocketed the money.

You can do a full DITY (Do it yourself) move. When our friends left Alaska they did and they made like $5,000 dollars. They bought a 24 ft trailer, like a carpenter's or horse trailer, the kind you pull behind you. They made a deal with a friend (AF) to drive it down to Maxwell, and then he could have the trailer, which he drove back to AK and wound up finding out about someone in CO moving to AK and picked their stuff up on the way back! So he even made money on it!

You pack, load, drive, unload, unpack and dispose of trash yourself. Also, you have no insurance for the move if something happens to it, like you do when TMO ships it. If you do a DITY, you'll know exactly when you'll get your things. If you do a TMO move, since you aren't going overseas, it shouldn't take but about 2 weeks or so. The problem is, if you don't have a house when your furniture arrives, it goes into storage and you have to wait for a scheduled delivery to get your things.

Before you leave and when you arrive, you can go to Family Support and they have a loan closet that will provide you with ANYTHING you need after your stuff leaves where you are, or before it gets to Whiteman. That is, if you're not in TLF, if they have a house immediately available to move in to.

Rules are different for each base, but at Eielson, we were only given 1 house to look at. Take it or leave it. If we didn't take it, then we started paying for our TLF out of our own pocket. As in, they had a house for you and you were too picky. When the 2nd house was available, if you didn't take it, you were kicked off the waiting list for 90 days.

Other bases have houses to spare and give you several to look at before you pick one. Most of the bases are going to privatized housing now, which just means a private company runs the housing and builds what they want and remodel how they want. Your BAH still goes to them to pay for the rent & utilities.

You are entitled to 16-20 hours of free child care at your losing AND receiving base. It's intended for you to have time to deal with housing, house search or deal with the movers. Your kids do not go to the daycare. They go to home childcare providers. Air Force Aid Society does not pay for it. Family Support does. They're part of the Force Support Squadron (which was the old Mission Support and Services Squadron. (Eielson was a test base for the merger.)

You're entitled to have one car shipped per active duty member. Assuming it's only your husband who is AD, then that means 1. If you were both active, then you could have 2 shipped.

They'll pay for you to drive, so keep your receipts for gas, lodging and meals. Doubt they'll pay for a plane ticket since you're not going that far. But if it is far, they will. We drove to AK, in August, but flew back in November! Too much snow to drive the AlCan in the winter, plus very few gas stations open in the winter, so you have to carry gas cans!

Can't think of anything else off the top of my head. One thing, if you get on the military spouse website (I can't remember the exact name for it! lol) you can ask to meet people at your gaining base, and you can ask questions about your area from people that were there.

Oh yeah! You'll get a sponsor at your new base. It's someone from your husband's new "office"/unit. Hopefully you'll have a lot in common and you'll get lots of info. Ours going to AK, was PCSing out and was a single guy, so we got nothing in the mail. Thankfully, I had done a lot of research on my own. You can go to Whiteman's homepage and learn a lot. www.whiteman.af.mil (I think) or you can go to www.af.mil and find a link to it.

Good luck, and if you have any questions, feel free to ask.
Loran : )

Michelle - posted on 12/29/2009

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We've done multiple PCS moves and are getting ready to move at the end of Jan from VA to GA. We've never waited more than a week for our stuff. Without orders, you can't get housing, but you can call the base housing where you are going to find out if there is a waitlist. If not, you should have a smooth move. If so, you need to figure out where you will stay while you wait or where you will live off base.

As for the PCS process, once he gets orders, he can go to transportation and make arrangements for the move. This is not a busy time, so they should be able to do it with little notice. Somebody will come to see how much stuff you have, perhaps the week before your move. Then the week of the move, packers will come for one or two days and box everything up. Plan to buy them lunch or they will disappear for hours. Plan to disassemble swing sets, weight benches, computers and VCRs. Watch carefully what they do with hardware for beds and other things. I also like to hang out in the kitchen with a marker and add notes to boxes so I know what's inside (beyond "dishes").

It would be best if your children could be elsewhere during all of this. We have slept at home, but meals are usually disrupted, so paper plates and fast food are used.

Then the truck will come. If you do not have a house yet, they will deliver your things to a storage facility near your destination. You will have to go to transportation when you get an address and arrange for delivery. Be really nice and come up with a good reason you need your stuff ASAP. Once we were told a week, but when I sweetly begged and showed off my swollen third trimester belly, they delivered it the next day.

Note: if your husband claims a partial DITY, you can weigh your vehicles empty and then full and get paid for any luggage or household goods you move yourself.

Erin - posted on 12/29/2009

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as a brat turned wife, i have 9 moves, seven of them overseas. where d we start. Orders!! got to have them. stay on your husband about them. the second you have them get on the housing list, and get your stuff scheduled for pickup. go to the pcs briefings with your husband. you ARE allowed! take the checklists and run down them. if you missed the briefings go to TMO and they will give you another copy. waiting, that is what to expect being pushed around some. don't let them do it. depending on your departure date and distance to new base will depend on how long you are without your stuff. i always prefer to have my stuff waiting for me, not the other way so my stuff is always picked up between 2 and 4 weeks ahead. if you plan to live on base this is best because as soon as you get your house ur stuff can be delivered in days. less time in tlf and faster setup of the house. you are ENTITLED to 16 hours of care in conjunction with pcs. call Air Force Aid at the new base and get the ball rolling. it will help with the delivery, or it can be two good days of unpacking. nothing else comes to mind at teh moment, hope this helps

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Ricky - posted on 09/21/2012

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Don't forget the push gift! I almost forgot it going to the hospital with my wife but luckily remembered it last minute. Juno Lucina just launched a whole line of beautiful push gifts for new mothers (www.jlucina.com). That is what the perfect push gift looks like.

Loran - posted on 12/30/2009

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Forgot to mention one little thing. Even though the AF pays for up to the first 30 days, it still comes out of your pocket then you get reimbursed, but you can also put that on your GTC. I think they take your # and then charge you on a weekly basis, not sure. Check with Lodging for their policy.

Loran - posted on 12/30/2009

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30 days that the Air Force pays for it. After that, if I remember correctly, it was on a week to week basis. As in, you had to show proof that you were looking or you have a contract on a house. And then I think it was after 60 days you're on your own expense, but by then you'll be making local BAH.

Nicole - posted on 12/30/2009

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Thanks for all the advide so far! One more thing: we plan on buying a house when we get there. But we need somewhere to stay in the meantime. We do not want to live on base housing. How long can we stay in the TLF while we househunt?

Loran - posted on 12/30/2009

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And Jennifer is right about packing everything. We did do a move from town onto base and it was official because my husband had a move owed to him (long story). They packed an open pitcher of water! Thank God we only moved 4 miles!!

No idea what JPPSO is. I think that is an Army thing. TMO handles Air Force moves. SATO makes arrangements for flights if you are authorized.

Your stuff does not get "crated" unless you are doing an overseas move.

One last thing, provide sodas or bottled water to your movers. Remember to try to keep them happy and working for "you" not for their boss. In most cases, they do a good job. They are paid a bonus if nothing breaks. Your husband is mandated to fill out a questionnaire within 30 days of your things arriving. Our packers in Alaska did an awesome job and the only thing broken was the handle from one mug. Also, we did give them 2 6-packs AFTER they were finished. It's not anything that's required, but it is a sort of protocol/gratuity that usually happens, kind of like tipping.

Loran - posted on 12/30/2009

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Jennifer, you might want to check again on your GTC. That's what it's there for. My husband has been in for 20 years and I double checked with him on that. You ARE on official orders when you are PCSing. It's not just for TDY. You cannot use it as a personal credit card, but you CAN use it for travel expenses. In fact, when we PCSed from Alaska to Alabama, I went myself to the travel office and they asked for it to book our airline tickets.

Jennifer - posted on 12/30/2009

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One more note, after reading the other posts. The government travel card is for official use only. The ONLY way, and I repeat ONLY way that your husband would be able to use it during a PCS is if he is TDY en route. Otherwise the use of it is NOT authorized, and they've started imposing very strict punishments for unauthorized usage.

[deleted account]

We just went through our first PCS and are currently living in TLF. It has been quite a challenge for me emotionally (being that it was during the holidays, we moved across the country from Tucson to Delaware, and I am 5 months pregnant). First of all we found out only two months before we were scheduled to move (he was in tech school) but only got the official orders a month before. Then we had to leave our stuff under the care of my mother (whom I was living with while my hubby was in tech school) to have TMO come pick up and take care of. Don't know where any of our stuff is currently. Right now we are living in TLF but will have to move out for a weekend to stay in a hotel then move back in as we wait for our house. Too short of a time to get an apartment.

One thing I wish people had told me so that we could have saved for it. The Air Force will pay for your move but they REIMBURSE you. They do not give you money up front. We have been here for a week and a half and aren't sure when we are going to get the money in our account. But we did do the TMO move (where they moved the majority of our stuff) and a DITY move (where we loaded up our car, weighing it before and afterwards). The part that sucks is being without stuff so plan your space wisely. Make sure that you pack what you think you might need or want in a hotel like space. I don't know what the TLFs are like there but the one we are in is pretty nice (remodeled in the last few years and like a little apartment). I have stayed in a few others (at Lackland, Bolling, and Barksdale because they were out of regular rooms) that were much more like hotel rooms with a little kitchenette. Hope this help some. Good luck!

Jamie - posted on 12/28/2009

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Well, I am a serving patriot and have been for over a span of 25 years. i was in the Army from '84-'87 and married my ex- husband during that time period. We moved a couple times during then. If I am remembering clearly, we had at least a month to get everything in order and moved. I am currently in the Navy Reserves and my last active duty move after 14 months, I had a whopping two days to put my things in storage for a bachelorette move from MS to VA. I have my girlfriend from highschool who's husband just came back from Iraq (Army) and they had less than a week to find a place off base to rent and move. The Air Force used to treat their people well, but knowing that they are an offshoot of the Army does not bode well. My suggestion is get as much as you can, packed right now. Things you don't use very often. If you would like, I can try to get ahold of my best friend and see what her husband did ( who he had to contact) to get the ball rolling. Just go to my FB page and post a message to me there if you would like the help. There is a bid difference of finding out from a detailor where your next station will be or if the service you are in, is ready to move you. You need to find out his actual rotation date !!

Trina - posted on 12/28/2009

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Not sure how the Air Force is for PCSing, but we were at least 4 weeks without our "stuff" and furniture from home, kinda like camping out. It wasn't too bad, the only really "memorable" thing was my 4 year old, he had been potty trained for at least 2 years, but after moving, he started pooping in his pants, he would go to the bathroom to do #1, but kept doing #2 in his pants, after about 2 weeks or so, he quit, but I think the move and new environment had something to do with it. At 4 years old, he didn't know how to express his feelings, so I think this is how it manifested itself. We moved again when he was 7, and he did fine. My daughter was 10 on our first move, she was depressed for a few months, but came out of it quickly, they are both doing fine now. PCSing is stressful no doubt, but just remember, whatever stress you are feeling, your kids are feeling it also. Just keep a positive attitude and it should be fine.

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