Smooth Move: Tips for Soldiers During PCS Season
For American military personnel around the world, the permanent change of station season is late March through August. That means a Soldier, Airman, Sailor or Marine planning for a PCS in 2022 needs to get the ball rolling today.
“We try to move Soldiers when it’s most convenient for them and their Family members, when kids are out of school,” said Kenneth Washington, director of Human Resources on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall. “But you start to work two to three months in advance.”
Washington said he moved about a dozen times with his Family over a 26-year Army career. Today, in a civilian role, he provides services to about 12,000 Soldiers and their Families in the greater Washington, D.C., area.
The first thing a PCSing Soldier needs to do is to complete and submit the rigorous moving checklist known as a levy briefing packet, he said.
This starts with determining whether you’ll be traveling on the same transport as your Family, otherwise known as concurrent travel; once that’s approved, you can get your orders. With orders in hand, a Soldier can plan to ship their belongings and vehicles before finally making flight arrangements.
“If you do all these things in advance, then you’re going to have a smooth transition,” said Washington.
Another element for HR to consider is whether a Soldier’s Family is categorized as having exceptional needs. For example, does an Army Family need a special language interpreter? Does someone need accommodations for asthma? If so, HR needs to make sure that a Soldier’s gaining command has those resources available, which can take weeks to get approval.
“A lot of Soldiers believe as soon as they turn in their levy packet that my office can just cut their orders right away,” said Washington. “They don’t realize the packet has to go overseas for the gaining command to approve concurrent travel and the command sponsorship.”
He added that Soldiers need to keep their records updated so HR can make sure those exceptional Family needs are met, and that it doesn’t come as a surprise down the line. Wrong information in a Soldier’s file can mean a mix up that results in your Family getting shipped home because the receiving command cannot meet your exceptional needs.
“Ideally, PCS orders should be arranged 90-120 days before leaving a current post,” said Washington. “If not, then “you set up a domino effect of Murphy’s Law being at play. “Sometimes, it can possibly get a Soldier’s marriage off to a rocky start when the Soldier gets overseas with his wife and children. They don’t have their household goods. They don’t have a car, so they have to spend more money. They spend a lot of time in a hotel when the Soldier’s trying to get acclimated with his unit. Household goods might get there a month later.”
Washington said his door is open to any mid-Atlantic Soldiers who have any questions or concerns about their PCS. His telephone number is (703) 696-5779. Soldiers on PCS also may contact Douglas Russel, chief of the Army’s military personnel division, at (703) 696-3695.