Tips For a Smooth PCS: Ensure Your Next Military Move Goes Off Without a Hitch

Thousands of military members make a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) move each year. These tips will make your military moves easier.
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PCS Tips

The thought of having to pack up all of your belongings and move to a new location every few years is not something the average person would look forward to. However, this is the reality faced by many military service members and their families.

When a member of the military receives a Permanent Change of Station (PCS), it signals the time has come to move to another duty location. Whether this is your first move or you have a few moves under your belt, the following tips can be useful in making the relocation more efficient and less stressful for the entire family.

Tips for a Smooth PCS

Moving is stressful, especially if you are moving during a stressful time in your life. It’s not uncommon for military families to move with short notice, during the school year, shortly after a major life event or move to an area (or country) they’ve never been to.

Hopefully, these tips will help you have a smooth PCS move.

Meet with Your Mover

The transportation office should provide you with the name of the company that will be providing services during your move. Do not wait until the last minute to contact the mover; instead, make arrangements approximately three months before the move. This will allow ample opportunity for the company to schedule a meeting to determine how much time will be needed to pack and load your belongings.

During this meeting, you should be sure to show the representative all areas of your home, including the garage and any storage areas. This will give the representative an accurate picture of what has to be done and how long it will take to get the job finished. You should also use this meeting as an opportunity to discuss any items that will require special handling. The transportation company is only responsible for items they pack; therefore, you should consider this before packing any items on your own.

Know Your Weight Limitations

Be aware that you will have weight limitations for your move. The PCS weight limitations are based on the service member’s rank and whether or not they have dependents. You can find the PCS weight limits here.

Your moving company should be able to give you a rough estimate of how much your household goods weigh. If you think you will be close to your limit, take some time to purge some goods before you PCS. Sell, donate, recycle or trash items that you will no longer need at your next duty station or heavy items that are easily replaced.

The Packing Process

Before any items are packed, take pictures to serve as proof of the condition of the items before the move. If items are damaged during the move, you will have documentation to support your case if there is a dispute as to the condition of the item prior to moving. I like to take photos of valuable items, including pictures of all angles, and of the model number and serial number.

It’s a good idea to keep certain valuable or irreplaceable items on your person during the move. This may include important paperwork, military records, financial documents, jewelry, photos or family heirlooms.

You will also need temporary storage for essentials that cannot be packed before the move. Make the move easier for small children by talking with them beforehand, so they know what to expect as well as allowing them to keep a few items during the move.

A Theft Prevention Tip:

I have dozens of DVDs stolen during one of my PCS moves. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice until a couple of weeks after the move. It seems the movers had simply sliced through the clear tape, opened the box, removed the DVDs from their cases, then resealed the box.

After that experience, I decided to make theft more difficult by using a permanent marker to make a squiggle mark down the length of the tape, ensuring the marker covered both sides of the box opening.

This isn’t guaranteed to prevent theft, but it makes it much more difficult to open a box without the owner knowing about it. I didn’t experience any theft after starting to do that with boxes.

The Day of the Move

Someone representing your family should be present during the packing, loading and delivery of personal and household belongings. You will be asked to inventory your property and code boxes to indicate if they were packed by the owner or if the condition is unknown.

Before setting out for your new location, you should check your home and property one more time to ensure nothing has been left behind. Once you are sure everything is packed, you will sign and date a bill of lading that authorizes the transportation company to move your property.

Arrival at Your New Location

If you are moving directly to your new house, the movers will be delivering your goods to that location. It is imperative that a family representative be present when the movers arrive and throughout the unpacking of goods. As boxes are unloaded, check them off of your inventory list as received.

It is your responsibility to tell the movers where you would like the boxes placed as well as to check for any items that have been lost or damaged in the move. Remember, the DoD now offers full replacement value for personal property that is lost or damaged. In the event that you are unable to move into your new home immediately, contact the new housing office’s settling-in services for information regarding where your property will be delivered and stored until you are ready to move.

PPM Moving Tips

Some military members prefer to move themselves to their next duty station. This is a voluntary program called the Partially Procured Move, or PPM. This was formerly known as a do-it-yourself (DITY) move, and you may still hear it referred to as such.

You have to request authorization to do a PPM move. If authorization and approval for this program are granted, the service member will be paid 95% of the amount of money the government would have paid for the move.

It is important to address any questions regarding the PCS to the appropriate office to ensure all necessary actions have been taken and benefits for which you may be eligible are received.

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