14 things no one tells you about your first PCS


By Rebecca Alwine

You’ve sent your spouse off to basic training and their initial training. . . and now it’s time to move. We know you’re ready to get going, but we also know that finding out all the relevant information is like pulling teeth. And we’ve been doing this a few years, so we’ve come up with a list of things we really want you to know before you move that first time.

Ask tons of questions. Tons. Even stupid ones.

1. Know what you’re entitled to financially. Lodging, per diem, mileage, Dislocation Allowance (DLA), all of it. Ask finance. Ask the command. Ask someone!

20151104-OSEC-LSC-0828 from Flickr via Wylio
© 2015 U.S. Department of Agriculture, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

True story: When I was moving with my husband right after getting married, we stayed in the dumpiest motels because I didn’t know that they would give us money for hotels later on.

2. Sometimes, you can get DLA or a pay advance. Sometimes.

Money from Flickr via Wylio
© 2008 Molly DG, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Fred Rice, Director of Public Affairs at Surface Deployment and Distribution Command said, “The Joint Travel Regulation (JTR) is an overarching regulation and each service branch determines their specific rules.” In some cases, this means that each installation chooses their path.

Bottom line: Ask for DLA specifically in advance. Worst case, they say no. You’ll still get it, just later on.

3. Someone will come pack up your stuff for you. And ask about a home of record move if this is your first move.

mailbox from Flickr via Wylio
© 2012 Matt, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Seriously, my parents moved us the first time because we didn’t know that movers actually came and moved us.

4. There should be a pre-move inspection where the moving company tells you what preparations to make for them and approximates how much stuff you have.

Look at those eyes. from Flickr via Wylio
© 2006 Phil Scoville, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Don’t do this: I took everything out of the cabinets and closets for the movers. They were not happy because all my stuff was in the way.

5. No one really understands the reimbursement system. Take pictures of things, make notes. Consult an expert, don’t consult Facebook. Make lots of notes. You can handle this, promise!

Broken TV from Flickr via Wylio
© 2009 Daniel_Bauer, Flickr | CC-BY-ND | via Wylio

Keep in mind: Everything is inconsistent when it comes to moving. One base says X and the other says Y. Please don’t take it personally.

6. Don’t be afraid to ask the movers or packers to do something. If you think they aren’t doing something right, call their supervisor or quality control from the military.

Safeway Movers Truck (LOL) from Flickr via Wylio
© 2008 Chika Watanabe, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Do this:  Insist on a more efficient labeling system for true value reimbursement. Record everything. Make sure they are taking apart furniture, and putting it back together.

7. Have pets? Make sure you know the requirements for the place you’re going. Some locations require shots, airplanes won’t fly them if it’s too hot. Some housing requires deposits.

Patty from Flickr via Wylio
© 2013 Torrey Wiley, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Make a list of what you need to do regarding pets. And kids.

8. You have a weight allowance. And if you go over it, you will pay. Keep that in mind when you’re packing stuff up. The movers probably won’t tell you if you’re over.

Detecto Scale from Flickr via Wylio
© 2007 Marcio Ramalho, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

You can request a reweigh. There is an allowance for professional gear (spouses and service members). They are to deduct a certain amount for packing materials.

9. You can move two cars. You have to drive them yourself (or pay for shipping) if you are moving stateside, but you can claim the mileage on two cars.

Car from Flickr via Wylio
© 2008 TCtroi, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

Check your orders. Concurrent travel means you can go together, which means that extra car is covered.

10. They’ll unpack for you! No matter your sponsor’s rank or size of your move, they have to do this if you ask.

unpacking from Flickr via Wylio
© 2007 Becky Stern, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

They’ll put things on the first flat surface they find, so this is not a neat process. You can ask for a partial unpack if you’d prefer.

11. Your packers may come from a different company than your movers.

Moving from Flickr via Wylio
© 2006 Seth Tisue, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

Don’t be alarmed if you get to know the packers on Day One and someone else shows up to load the truck on Day Two.

12. If you are at all uncomfortable with anything that is happening, make them stop, and call the transportation office. They have absolutely no right to make you feel uncomfortable or unsafe.

Business Photo Shoot from Flickr via Wylio
© 2010 Randy Kashka, Flickr | CC-BY-ND | via Wylio

Usually someone will come by and check on the move, but it doesn’t always happen.

13. Your transportation company should assign you a moving coordinator. They are to keep you updated on where your stuff is and when it will arrive.

159/365+1 Clipboard from Flickr via Wylio
© 2012 Dave Crosby, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

Yeah, I didn’t know this either. We’ve moved four times and no one said this to me. You bet I’ll be asking next time!

14. You are allotted travel days based on 350 miles per day. That is, if your duty stations are 700 miles apart, you get two days of per diem.

1905 world map in German from Flickr via Wylio
© 2009 Patrick Barry, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

But 350 miles a day is about six hours of car travel, so feel free to travel more if you want.

Because it’s worth repeating, I’ll do it:

Ask tons of questions. Tons. Even stupid ones.

Seriously, ask the transportation people, the spouses in the unit, send your spouse with a list to their levy brief or chain of command. Moving is stressful and unpredictable and you want to be as prepared as possible.

And, when you’re on the flip side. Help out a new spouse. We’re all still learning and we all still have questions.