Overseas orders.... need advice, help, links..... anything!

Lisa - posted on 12/11/2010 ( 8 moms have responded )

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I am a navy wife and mom of two toddlers. My husband has been stationed in the same city in the states for 7 1/2 years. He just found out he got orders to Japan (Atsugi) for two years come summer. I know it seems far away, but there is SO much to think about.

He is going back on sea duty, after two years on shore duty. Right now, I believe the plan is for me to go with him??? (that's according to the navy, if it was up to us, we would be together, wherever) I have a lot of worries and fears, but my biggest thing would be him going out to sea while I'm home with a 2 and 3 year old 7,000 miles from family and friends for a week or a month at a time.

Are there support groups, or meetings out there? I can't find an actual answer regarding housing situation, do we have to WAIT to get there before getting put on military housing list? If we live in housing, I know we forfeit OHA, but do we still get the Utility/Maitenance allowance?

For anyone that has been married and stationed in Japan, does the money really pan out to be decent, with the yen conversion?

Do my children (2 & 3) need passports if it's on active duty orders? What needs to be done before we go?

Anyone that has ANY advice, or help, please share. Thanks

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Elizabeth - posted on 12/14/2010

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Everyone's information is correct. I just wanted to add about the yen situation. Right now the yen rate is at 81 yen = $1. It costs around $60-62 for 5000 yen (comparable to $50). When we moved here in 2008, the rate was at 102 yen = $1. So you can see the yen rate has plumeted since we have moved here. The Cola does offset the terrible exchange rate though.

We live off-base and if you are frugal with the amount of money received for utilities, you can make money. Our electric bill is around $38/month. We only have one light on at a time. We only run one A/C in the entire house. If you prefer to live in a warm house during the winter and like to have a freezing cold house in the summer, living off base will be extrememly costly for you.

Kim - posted on 12/14/2010

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My family just recently PCS'd to Guam. We did get free passports based on his orders, but we also had to get regular passports too. We were told that we needed the regular passports in case one of us had to be MedEvaced off the the island. We are thankful that we got them now bc my son is being MedEvaced to Hawaii the beginning of next year to see a pediatric neurologist. Before you can actually begin the process of moving you and your children will have to go through an overseas screening. During the overseas screening they will do dental checks and medical checks to make sure that your all healthy. If you or your children have a medical condition then they will have to determine based on the medical facilities in Japan if they can care for you there. We all passed our medical screenings during the summer, however, a month after arriving on island my son began having seizures. We would not have been cleared to come to Guam if he was having them prior to screening so now we are in the process of trying to be sent back to the states.
You'll also need to find out about shipping a vehicle. I am pretty sure that you are not allowed to ship vehicles to Japan, but double check. If not, you'll need to purchase a car when you arrive. If you live in base housing you will not receive OHA or the utility allowance. Also, OHA is not like BAH. I know that some people live off base and collect BAH and make money based on their rent, but OHA is not like that. If you decide to live off base you will only collect the amount that is on your lease. You will however collect the entire utility allowance, so if your utilities are not that much you may pocket some of that. You will also receive COLA (cost of living allowance). I think you should be able to submit your paperwork to be put on the waiting list prior to arrival, I know we did when moving here. Hopes this helps a little.

Elizabeth - posted on 12/11/2010

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You children will need passports, however they (& you) will be eligible for free ones through the Navy. I'm not sure if the acronym is the same but in the Army you have to go through EFMP (Exceptional Family Member Program) screening to make sure that there is no one in your family that has medical needs that can't be met in the area. We were in Germany and I found that the military community overseas tends to be closer and more tight-knit.

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Tracy - posted on 12/17/2010

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We were stationed at Yokota AB near Tokyo and I know we went to Atsugi a few times. Japan is AWESOME! I will be the first to say that I never had a desire to go there, but loved it after I got there. All the other ladies are right. The support system was awesome because you're all in the same boat! Definitely get out and try new things! The Japanese Onsans are awesome and the Love Hotels were entertaining for the principal and a great "date" with your hubby! If you can live off base DO...if it isn't allowed, then get off base as much as possible. The people that I noticed at Yokota that weren't happy never left the base, never embraced the culture, didn't experience Japan. The people are nice and truly concerned about the populace and not the individual. I found that many Japanese people spoke some english and were eager to practice on you...if they don't have english the "pointy talky" worked really well! Definitely take advantage of the awesome schools and make use of the Child Development Centers and get time for yourself to experience the wonderful Japanese Culture. I WOULD LOVE for the opportunity to take my 5 year olds to live there!!

Jamie - posted on 12/17/2010

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We just moved from Sasebo Japan, which is more south than Atsugi. Our daughter is 11 and just loved it there. Be prepared that you will not have all of the American conveniences that you have in the states but online shopping helps a lot. Your children will need passports and you will both need to be there to apply for them and you need to apply early otherwise you can get stuck flying seperately from your husband because you have to have a dependent entry approval. PSD should be able to help you with all of these items. If you have pets make sure they are micro-chipped, have all their shots, and rabies blood work done and make sure to leave for the airport with plenty of time. I don't know the housing situation in Atsugi but if you can live on base it will be cheaper. You won't need utilities allowance because that is all covered on base. Be prepared to buy a vehicle over there, plus JCI, and insurance. It can add up but if you need to Navy Relief will help you out. You don't need regular passports unless you plan on traveling outside of Japan for vacation. It is hard to live over there at first but you get used to it after awhile. The people are very nice and it is the safest place to live so that is a big plus. Their work schedules do make it a little harder but they have lots of resources on the bases over there to help out. The commands are generally very good for the spouses. Good luck and just breathe. It's hard at first but once you adjust it's a beautiful country, you just have to make sure to get out and enjoy it.

Steph - posted on 12/16/2010

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Hello,
Everything I have read here is amazing advise!! I am a military brat and I lived living over seas the different cultures was an amazing experience! I live in Okinawa Japan. I love it here! The beach's are so close the people are so friendly. You would want to get a car as soon as possible the panchos ( taxi cabs) are $6 on base and off base pretty expensive. The if you bring your car it will RUST so I don't recommend you bringing one. We bought a used van for $1,000 so save some money you have to think about get insurance the JCI and then go through inspection then you have to buy food from scratch so yeah save a couple $1000 make sure to bring pictures off family the kids will miss. Oh and we bought vonage so we could talk stateside for as long as we want. It's worked out awesome. Also having a computer with web cam so you can stay in touch just some this that have helped us out! My 5 yr. Old and 2 yr. Old love it here. You can do so much traveling !!! Hope some of this helps

Kathy - posted on 12/16/2010

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We lived at Camp Zama, Japan for 3 years, returning Stateside in 2006. Atsugi is a nice base. You do get Cost-ofLiving(COLA) to offset the exchange rate. As for passports, etc, the Navy should provide those for you at no charge. We were no allowed to ship a car, but were able to find cheap, used cars with no trouble. The most driving you would likely do is on base anyway, or between bases that are nearby. Otherwise, the trains are very convenient and easy to navigate. We did live on post at Zama, (it is only a 15-min drive from Atsugi) and we were Army, so I can't really speak to the housing issue at Atsugi. All that said. It is a great opportunity to experience something new. The people are very friendly and welcoming, I found.
I would tell you, "GO!!" and enjoy every moment.

Jaime - posted on 12/16/2010

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I'm not only a military spouse, but also grew up a military brat my entire life. Living overseas is the GREATEST benefit of being in the military! By time I was 18, I had lived in Germany and Japan (Misawa), was able to visit Korea, Guam, the Phillipeans, Hawaii, Saipan, and every country in Europe. How many 18 year old could say that?? On top of that, my education was better. the DoDDS schools are AMAZING. When we learned about WW2, we went to Normandy. When we learned about Hiroshima, we went to Hiroshima! You could put your kids in a Japanese preschool and they could learn Japanese! (MANY people do this and it's a wonderful experience for kids. The Japanese are such fabulous people. So honest, respectful and loyal.)

As for being away from family. Everyone there is in your same boat. People on overseas military bases really come together and become a family themselves. It's not like stateside bases. (I hate being stateside... I miss the unity of community I had growing up overseas). And even more, you, your husband and kids come together and become an even closer family. I don't know about your extended family, but I find my extended family can just cause riffs in our family with their budding in and meddling, and that's not the case when you are so far away.

You will love being overseas. As for the housing, and all that. Try not to worry about it. Your husband will take care of it. He has to. They give him check lists and make sure everything is taken care of. And you should get a sponsor that you can communicate with prior to leaving and who will be at the airport when you get there who will help you when you get to your new base. The only helpful thing I can say that may not be told to you, is to make sure you have a couple thousand bucks saved to buy a car. It's been 10 years since I've lived in Japan, but we couldn't bring our cars and you need to buy one when you get there (which isn't a problem because someone is PCSing out and selling their car).


Enjoy being in Japan!!! I would do anything to get orders back there!

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