PCSing for Newbies

All you need to know about your first PCS and how to make it less stressful than it already is.

Everyone who has gone through it knows it’s a pain. Whether you’re going overseas or you are only moving from coast to coast, it can be rough on the body and mind. Whether or not you have a family and pets, the PCS process is long and tedious, and even more so with those who do have a family or pets.

Paperwork: When Does It End?

To put it bluntly, out-processing is a nightmare for the military member and the family equally. Yeah, you might get out of work often, but you’ll be begging to go back to work when you see your gas tank go empty non-stop from continuously running around for ‘errands.’  These errands include files upon FILES of paperwork that you need in order to in-process to your next base.

There’s never enough copies of orders you can print out. In fact, just make a folder labeled “ORDERS” and print out 100 copies to keep with you at all times. Orders for you, orders for your spouse, orders for your new place of work, hospital, buying a vehicle, moving your pets- I could continue but you get the gist.

If you need a power of attorney for anything, get to the legal office and get the paperwork for that long before you PCS. If you have pets, get to your vet and have them checked out, get their healthy flying certificate, and again make copies of that along with their rabies proof. Make sure that when you get your itinerary, MAKE COPIES. Basically, get a giant file folder to stick in your carry-on with copies of basically everything.

The House You’re Moving Out Of: Clean It

This can actually be added to the list of never-ending paperwork, as most duty stations have a list of requirements on cleaning before you PCS, whether you live on base or off base. Some places are strict, and some are more lenient. You can surprisingly pay PCS cleaners that will guarantee you a pass, but that’s only if you want to put the money into it.

This is something you want to start doing way in advance, even before you get orders. If you are a hoarder, you need to start selling and dumping stuff because the military will only move a certain amount of pounds. For moving overseas, it was 8,000lbs, and everywhere else it will be the same. Plus, the more you sell, the more you can save. Expect to see your checking account drop drastically during your PCS, especially if you are moving overseas.

If you painted walls, repaint overt them with that beautiful eggshell white and if your blinds are destroyed from the years you’ve lived in your current home, usually an on-base hardware store will have replacements for free. Call maintenance if you notice anything wrong, even if it’s small. Some PCS inspectors go through a home with a fine-toothed comb, and others just walk in. You’ll have your pre-inspection and list of tasks you have to complete, then you’ll have your final inspection in which you’ll leave every cabinet open and they will check every appliance to make sure it’s working.

PCSYour Animals

If you don’t have pets, you can feel free to skip this section. However, if you do, there is some vital information you need to know about transferring them. You will have to have airline-approved kennels no matter what size of animal you have, a water and food bowl, and most likely all of their vet information taped to the top of the kennel (vet records, rabies shots, “this animal is safe and healthy to fly” papers).

If you are taking a flight leaving from a large base, pet tickets are cheap. If you have orders, make sure the commercial flight knows that. If they don’t, your dog or cat might get stuck somewhere. If an active duty military person has orders and the pets are attached, most airlines will put them in cargo if you make sure to show them the orders.

Money: It Goes Quick

Once you are booted out of your house and living in TLF, TLQ, or whatever hotel the military shoves you in, expect to be eating out a lot, constantly shopping for basic temporary household (hotel) items, and doing this all while continuing to pay bills. If you have a vehicle, great. If you don’t, many military auto sources finance brand new vehicles to you for very cheap prices. Who knew you could get hundreds of dollars off a new vehicle just because you completed your Associate’s Degree? Unfortunately, most of these auto source places are overseas.

Learn how to balance and manage your money, especially if you have a large family that demands a lot. Remember that, when you get to your next duty station and house, you might have to buy appliances like washers and dryers if you haven’t before. It’s extremely important during your first PCS to balance your checkbook.

Everything Else That You Should Know

Pack only necessities. In most cases, every family member gets two checked suitcases and whatever you decide to carry on. Who knows how long you will be living out of a suitcase, so stick to the bare minimums. Clothes, shoes, electronics, stuff for your pets if you have them, and all of your important paperwork. Throw in a picture frame or two, they squeeze in easily.

The most important thing out of all of this is to regularly take breaks to destress. PCSing is rough but, for people who have never done it before, it’s a whole different and new experience. You will be running around from place to place constantly and have endless things to do that seem more like chores than a duty station change in progress. So take a breather, because it’s not a slow process. It’s so quick that you’ll be in a brand new place before you know it and you’ll have a whole new journey to create.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Natalie Applegate

Natalie is a freelance writer working for multiple websites and is a devoted military spouse to an aircraft electrician. She started in New Mexico then moved to Okinawa for six years, stationed on Kadena where she began her writing career. A mental health awareness activist, she has spent much of her time volunteering with combat vets and writing their stories.
Natalie Applegate

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