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This is an article and conglomeration of lessons
learned from military permanent changes of station (PCS). This
information was compiled from many users' posts on the
Areas of Focus:
Change of Address
Base-Specific Advice (Canon AFB, Minot AFB,
Moving Back to the States
Advice for Families with Kids
Miscellaneous PCS Advice
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Change of Address
One of the biggest pains about PCSing or moving is changing all
my addresses. So I made a list of people/places that you will need to
change your address with. Obviously it will be different for each person
but I tried to make it general. I have only PCSed 3 times so I am a
beginner compared to most and these are the ones I have came up with:
- Update your MyPay online account. Along with addresses, don't
forget about bank account info if you do get a new bank at the new
PDS. Be sure to update MyPay for your payroll, if applicable.
- One that seems to get missed more often lately is the account
information in DTS. Be sure to view your information in your profile
the first time you create a new authorization. You can edit the
account info prior to signing the authorization or voucher. Check
the box to update to your permanent profile and you'll be set for
all subsequent claims. When your DTS account is detached from your
old unit and later received to the new, the account info stays
intact. I know many have separate accounts for the travel voucher
- Postal Service
- ID Card
- USAA (Checking/ Credit Card/ Car, Home, & Renters Insurances)
- Loan Agencies
- Military Stuff
- vRED on vMPF
- Gov Travel Card (Have unit switched and activate card)
- Cell Phone Company
- Pilotís License Stuff (FAA)
- Clubs (Officerís Club, Netflix)
If you are going to your permanent flying base-- buy rather than
rent if you aren't living on base-- especially since you get VA, and
it's generally a sellers market in military communities (despite what
the economists say)
Cannon AFB -- I lived east of town, but the neighborhood I lived in was
hit by tornado. Base housing there is not on base. It's about 15 miles
east of base. The Shifty Fifty owns the town. There is a new cancer ward
built there, and the university in Portales is expanding-- good jobs for
Minot AFB -- The best place to live is west of town, if you are
living downtown. It's expanding. If you live just outside of town you
save about $1200-3000 a year in taxes.
On base at Minot, don't put anything in the basement-- they flood.
Also pitbulls are illegal, if you own one you have to live outside of
town or on base. You will get a police escort on base if you travel to
Minot with one. Most vets won't treat them either.
For spouses high employment rate, LOW wages... Chamber of commerce keeps
the wages near minimum wage. A teacher with 5 years experience gets paid
less than $30K a year. Lots of hospital jobs though. Minotians are
notoriously CHEAP. You won't find good expensive brand names here if
your SO is into shopping-- MPLS is 8 hours away. However, if you are
into hunting, fishing, or biking there are some really good stores.
There's over 30 miles of bike trails in and around city proper, and
about three road bike stores.
Aviano AB -- Apply for dependent No-Fee Passports as soon as
you get your RIP; they need that passport, which is different than a
tourist passport, to apply for a Visa. The whole process can take from
10 weeks to six months. This has been a very common problem and your
dependents CANNOT take the rotator or fly space-a without both. They can
fly commercially to Italy, but can only stay for 90 days. You also need
a visa to get a driverís license, so they cannot legally drive, either.
- If you are going to take the rotator, the spots for pets fill up
90 days in advance. You can reserve your petís seat as soon as you
get your RIP.
- If you are planning on shipping a car, take it to the port as
soon as you can afford to do so. It took us 50 days for our car to
arrive in Italy and rental cars are generally more expensive than in
- Ship your unaccompanied baggage about 30 days before you think
youíll want it there. Put everything in there that you think youíll
want because it will take about 60-70 days for your household goods
to get there. In fact, put more in there than you think youíll need
because youíll end up needing it. Count as much as you can for pro
gear, which doesnít count against your weight allowance and they
always overestimate the weight of the pro gear (which really helps
you since you could actually ship much more than your allotted
amount for baggage). Uniforms do not count, but job related books,
gear, and even computers and printers count as pro gear. Make sure
you at least put in a full set of bedding, including pillows, sheets
and a blanket, towels, some pots and pans, a few dishes, office
supplies, lots of clothes, uniforms you canít fit in your actual
luggage, even a small TV if you have one. Anything you think will be
within the weight allowance that youíll want in the first month and
a half that youíll be there without your household goods.
- If you donít have a laptop, consider getting one. The TLF has
wireless internet in the lobby of all the buildings; I even got
reception in my room. Download Skype and you can call back to the
states for about 2-3 cents per minute.
- There are a few cell phone options, almost all the companies do
prepaid, pay by the minute, but you can find some plans. However,
you will not find a plan like you have in the states and youíll
probably get stuck paying something per call regardless. There are
at least three phone stores in Aviano, including one on base where
you can buy the phone and plan pretty quickly. If youíre picky about
the phone you want, you could also get one off Ebay before you get
here. Just make sure it is a GSM unlocked phone that has coverage
for 900 and 1800, which are the most common frequencies in Italy. If
you do that, all you need to buy is a chip and put it in your phone
when you show up. TIM has the largest coverage and has calls for
about 10 cents/min to anyone else using TIM, but other companies
have good deals too.
- High speed internet is spreading pretty well. As of spring 07,
if you lived a little ways away from the mountain and south of base,
you should be able to get DSL. That is running about $50 a month
plus a bunch of setup fees. However, it can take as long as two
months to get your phone hooked up, so plan on being without for a
while. There is also a wi-fi option; you can buy a receiver from
Vodafone (one of the cell phone companies) and for $50/month you get
100 hours and free weekendsÖif you can get reception. Many of the
towns are very rural and do not get good reception. If you live in
one of the bigger towns, youíre probably in luck.
- The housing here isnít too bad, most of the houses are not
nearly as small as you expect a European house to be. You can go to
the Aviano website off the portal from a .mil computer, go to the
newcomer section, then the housing and you can look at their housing
listings. There is no on base housing, but there is government
housing, which is clumps of government houses spread throughout the
nearby towns. Basically works the same as normal base housing. The
biggest downside is that since you are in a big clump, it is obvious
that you are Americans. Economy housing is decent here but can be
hit or miss. Some guys get lucky and have a huge, very nice house
and sometimes it can be pretty tough to find anything acceptable.
When you get here, check the housing website every morning, the good
ones go fast. Also, check to see if anybody in your squadron is
leaving, thatís a good way to find a good house. A lot of the really
good houses just get handed down through the squadron. The OHA is
not like BAH, if you spend under the cap, you donít get the extra
money, so you might as well find as nice of a place as you can
within the cap. Also, many landlords will add a condo fee, which
includes all the utilities except water and heating. This is a very
good thing, because if you are still under your cap, you have that
many less utilities to pay for out of your utility allowance and
this time you do get to keep the extra. Also, you can often
unofficially negotiate upgrades to the house, like A/C and get a
portion of the cost added to the rent, which you donít pay anyway.
- Make sure you have a normal tourist passport for yourself and
all your dependents (even pets need one that you get when you
arrive). The travel opportunities are awesome and Iíve been told
that if you finish the tour with more than a few days of leave left
over, youíre an idiot.
- If you are considering buying appliances before you get here,
try to get ones that can run on both 110 and 220v. The BX here has a
good selection of TVs that work both in the states and locally (the
TV system works differently here: a normal US TV wonít be able to
get local channels if you care about that, but AFN isnít too far
behind on playing shows from home, so youíre not really missing
anything by not watching Italian TVÖexcept naked women after 11pm).
Itís nice to not have to plug everything into the three transformers
that you get issued.
- Check your credit card to see if it charges you a foreign
transaction fee. Most cards do, usually 1-3% which they add to
whatever you buy off base, but if you look around you can find some
- Most small kitchen appliances and things like lamps, alarm
clocks, and microwaves do not work here. Donít even bother bringing
them, because youíll just have to store them in your quite possibly
small house. However, youíre issued three transformers that you can
plug these things into if you canít live without them. Itís a big
pain to drag the transformers all over the house just so you can
plug in your favorite desk lamp. Most people moving out are willing
to sell their 220v stuff, so you can get those things fairly easily
when you get here.
When going overseas, be sure to ask your sponsor very specifically
what the best way is to get your flying professional gear & life support gear (helmet, etc) "over
there" in a timely fashion - you would like to have it waiting for you
upon arrival, and you probably don't want to bother with hand-carrying
it on the trip. You can get reimbursed for some shipping options (I
don't remember the details), but some methods are significantly slower
than others. This burned me when I PCSd to Yokota. I did Parcel
Post because, at the time, that's what I understood would be
reimbursed. Big mistake. Took 2-3 months for my gear to show up. In
hindsight, I would have paid for it all out-of-pocket to get it sooner,
if necessary. You'll be making good coin overseas anyway; don't skimp on
When you PCS overseas you should get two shipments. Unaccompanied
baggage and your household goods. Unaccompanied I think runs around
300-500lbs allowable (may depend on rank/destination) and is supposed to
arrive within 30 days. This is typically things you will need quickly
upon arriving at your new duty station...ie, kitchen stuff, sheets,
blankets ect. You can ship your pro-gear with unaccompanied and it won't
count against your weight allowance. And you can get creative on what
counts as pro-gear. Two trips to Kadena and my unaccompanied has always
arrived within 2 weeks.
If you want to mail stuff to yourself, you can send it through the
good ole USPS. It can be sent priority mail and insured. You will get
reimbursed up to what the gov't would have paid for the same weight
through your Unaccompanied baggage (which is normally all of it). They
will not reimburse the insurance though. All of this weight counts
against your overall weight allowance as well (unless it's pro-gear).
Moving Back to the States
When PCS'ing back to the states from Europe (I presume, all overseas),
you can get the TMO folks to pay to ship any wine/liquor that you've
accumulated over here. You have to jump through a couple of hoops. I
don't remember all the details, but basically, find a shipper. Pay the
money to ship the alcohol and take the receipt to the TMO who will type
up a letter authorizing you the reimbursement. Take the letter and x
copies of orders to finance at the losing base and you get reimbursed
just like filing a travel voucher. If you're leaving overseas anytime
soon, just ask at TMO. They have all the details.
Also, one of the best kept secrets about leaving overseas and heading
home is what is known as "circuitous travel". This is the ability to
take leave in conjunction with your PCS back to the states and jump on a
plane where ever it is that you end up. For example, you can leave
Ramstein, go to Paris for a couple of days, then go to Amsterdam for
several days and then head over to London for a couple more days before
boarding a flight back to the states from London. Normally, you are
authorized to depart from Frankfurt to head back to the states from
Ramstein and would have to leave from Frankfurt so after taking leave
you would have to ultimately end up back in Frankfurt to catch your
flight. With circuitous travel authorized, they will figure out which
ticket is cheaper (Frankfurt to the states or London, from the example)
and you will be reimbursed up to the cost of the flight from Frankfurt.
You get to take a great trip and leave from the airport of your choosing
and more than likely not have to pay anything.
FYI, when I left Ramstein AB, Germany, back in 2002, you had to ask specifically for
circuitous travel. The travel people did not bring it up in the
out processing briefing. When I asked they would not discuss it in the
group, but instead they had me stay afterward to get the entitlement put
on my orders. One more time that you have to know more than the man.
PCS Advice for Families with Kids
1. Make sure your kids hear the news from you first. Children are
extremely perceptive and can generally tell when something out of the
norm is taking place. They trust their parents to keep them informed.
2. Empower your children to make as many decisions as possible. Maybe
they can have some say over the time of a move, or in the type of
neighborhood you'll live in.
3. Let family priorities guide your decisions.
4. Do your research about cost of living, quality of schools,
availability of day care, suitability of neighborhoods, and proximity of
shopping, houses of worship and local amenities.
5. Carefully consider when the move should take place.
6. Involve your children in plans for family pets- taking care of a pet
can be a welcome distraction, and the promise of a new pet may increase
the appeal of a new home.
7. If no one volunteers to do so, don't be afraid to throw your own
8. Take tangible keepsakes with you; memories can fade quickly.
9. Recognize the importance of your child's personal belongings, which
are often sources of security and comfort.
10. Use the move as a chance to reorganize: Develop a to-do list, get
rid of clutter, store small items in small containers, let kids develop
organizational systems, and break large projects into small tasks.
11. Make the move an adventure--go on a a treasure hunt for landmarks in
your new community, take photos or videos, and prepare for the actual
physical move by bringing a bag of treats for each child and playing
games while flying or riding in the car.
12. Support your children as they mourn leaving behind familiar people,
places and routines.
13. Take deliberate steps to ease the transition to a new schoolóvisit
before enrolling your children so they become familiar with the
building, the rules and the teachers. Or explore the schoolís Web site,
then call and talk with the principal, guidance counselor or a teacher.
If your child has specific needs, make sure theyíre known.
14. Make the most of a temporary homeóplace framed family pictures
around the rooms, bring your own comforters and pillows so sleeping
areas look familiar, clean less and play more, and relax some family
15. Donít wait for new friends to come to you. Introduce yourself to
others, invite other kids over to play, host a get-acquainted party, get
involved in school activities.
16. Even if you know this is a short-term move, approach it as if itís
not. Settle in, make friends, become a part of the community.
17. Create a sense of belonging in your new homeólearn about local
history and geography, visit museums and historical sites, attend
festivals, read the newspaper, try the cuisine.
18. Always remember that being a part of a loving family is whatís most
19. If the resources you need arenít thereóorganized activities, child
care, ways to get acquainted Ėtake a leadership role in creating them.
20. Send out your own welcome wagon by taking the initiative in
welcoming other newcomers.
21. Donít forget to take care of yourself during the stress of a move.
22. Keep in touch with old friends.
23. Model a positive attitude, even during dissatisfaction with the
moving experience, and find things to laugh about.
24. Use storytelling to celebrate your family historyóspend time looking
at photos, watch home videos, talk about the places youíve lived.
25. View the experience as a new beginningóswap piano lessons for dance
classes, try a different sport, get new haircuts.
Miscellaneous PCS Advice
- Inventory your stuff, Microsoft Access has a really good Database, or
you can go to Family Readiness (Support Center it's called now) and get
a software version of the stuff. Write down serial numbers on all
electronics. Go on Ebay and estimate the value of your valuables.
- Good site to know if you have china-- www.replacements.com-- I have
pre-occupation China set from my grandmother, the movers broke several
pieces, I found them on this site, expensive as all hell, but I got them
- Call the base housing and find out how big your housing is at the next
base, married guys. I know many a person who came back from Germany with
the beautiful hutch set only to get like a 800 sq ft.
- If you are moving stateside it's financially advantageous to do a
- Don't stick your wife with all the moving stuff and go TDY. My husband
did that on our move to Germany, went ahead and did SOS in residence
while I was separating and dealing with medical issues. I just about had
- If you are going overseas, try to time a new car with your return trip
;)... You can get a 5-series Bimmer really cheap in Germany, plus you
get VAT, and free shipping. Another overseas secret is
- If you don't trust the movers, carry it yourself.
- Another moving tip-- if you are planning a moving sale-- sell your books
on Ebay. At garages sales, I get normally around $.25-.50 a book, on
ebay I sold books for $5-6.
- A JFTR update effective 25 Sep authorizes payment of 20 cents a
mile on PCS regardless of the number of dependents (or no
dependents). Effective 25 September 2007 -- 1. MALT Rate. The
MALT paid (see par. U2605 for the rate) is determined by the
official distance for which MALT may be paid under the circumstances
(as determined IAW the applicable provisions of this regulation). An
authorized traveler is a member or dependent traveling IAW a PCS
order and whose transportation is to be reimbursed using a PCS order
as authority. If more than one member travels as an authorized
traveler in the same POC, each is authorized MALT for the official
distance. Each member is authorized MALT and one member receives the
If you have someone arriving, especially someone with family with them,
a cooler full of about 3-4 days worth of food (bread, peanut butter,
lunch meats, cereal, milk, water, sodas, etc.) is a welcomed sight. The
Army major that was my sponsor when I got to Belgium did that, and it
turned into a tradition for the three people I sponsored during my time
The key to any PCS is a good sponsor. Get in touch with him/her early
and talk a lot. Let your spouses talk to their spouses, even kids to
kids if the ages are close. Email makes this easy. I have to say that
although I felt I was pretty self-sufficient during the numerous PCS
moves we made during my career, in retrospect the ones that were easier
were the ones where we had a great sponsor.
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