PCS Tips For Military FamiliesUpdated: March 18, 2021
Permanent Change of Station (PCS) moves are not easy on military families but can be easier with these tips and some preparation prior to the move. There are many ways a PCS move can be done. It all depends on whether or not you are moving within in the continental United States (CONUS) or outside of the continental United States (OCONUS).
Service members often are sent to a new duty station every two to three years and also overseas, or OCONUS. When a PCS move is for OCONUS the bulk of household goods will be sent on in a shipment container by sea along with your automobile if you choose too. There are weight limits on these shipments as well as when returning to OCONUS depending if you are a single or married. You also have the option to place your things in storage without shipping it to an OCONUS area.
When shipping household goods and items by any means there is opportunity to file a claim with the U.S. Government if anything is damaged. Normally there is a claims office located within all military legal centers. They are they to check and review all shipping papers and receipts you may have in order to process your claim if you have a valid one.
Some very good tips in general when going through a PCS move is to:
- Read the specifics pertaining to anything you store, ship or mail
- Photograph all items prior to packing, shipping or mailing anything
- Prepare an inventory list of all items and make a few copies
- Gather all receipts you may have for all items and make a few copies
- Track and file any claims on your items in a timely manner according to regulation and policy
- Write down all contact data pertaining to offices and staff that handle your household goods and automobile. Do this from the point of shipment to the end destination and include the telephone number, fax, email, mailing address and names of staff
PCS moves with children and with pets presents extra challenges in itself. Attention is more focused on:
- Birth certificates and immunizations
- Marriage certificates
- Military ID cards
- Military PCS orders
- Pet passports and immunizations
- Possible pet quarantine at new duty station
- Medical, dental and parental powers of attorneys
- Individual passports
Keep in mind that some overseas countries do not allow certain types of animals in or out of their country. The Department of State website provides some very helpful information aside from what your military orders will contain. Specifics on diseases, appropriate immunizations, agricultural items not allowed, types of animals not allowed and travel warnings, etc. Their website is www.state.gov, and for international travel see www.travel.state.gov.
Hand-carrying originals and a copy of all important documents in two different places is the safest way to ensure you have them during travel and arrival. Keep in mind that hundreds of thousands of pieces of luggage are lost every year during travel. The best suggestion is to have copies in suitcases or in carry-on bags, and originals in a purse or carry on. Extra copies within suitcases would also do no harm.
While traveling for a PCS move, there are other benefits authorized by military regulation. It’s best to peruse through them if you have a chance prior to moving. This will ensure you remain within the guidelines for meal and lodging claims as well.
Keep in mind every branch of service has their own offices to handle PCS moves for service members including relocation specialists. These are the designated offices:
- The Department of Defense – Joint Personal Property Shipping Office
- Air Force – Traffic Management Office
- Army – Installation Transportation Office
- Navy and Marine Corps – Personal Property Shipping Office
- Coast Guard – Household Goods Shipping Office
There is an added option when moving within CONUS or OCONUS and that is referred to as a do-it yourself (DITY) move, or Personally Procured Move (PPM). This entails the individuals moving their household goods and items themselves with their private auto, or rental vehicle to their new duty station and/or to a storage unit.
Most important during all PCS moves is organization and being knowledgeable about the entire process in order for any military family to have the smoothest transition to a new location as possible.