PCSing with ease: lessons learned

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The e-mail pops up saying "Congratulations you have been selected to move to your next duty station." The excitement is brief and then you start to realize how much work you have to do prior to leaving. The everyday to-do list just doubled and the overwhelming feeling of change begins to set in.

Over my short six-year career thus far, I have had the pleasure of moving three times, with one move to an overseas location. No matter how many I've done, they have always had some degree of stress attached to them.

Over the years I have been able to able to give fellow Service members tips on making the move easier for both themselves and their families. 

Organization

With any permanent change of station or deployment, my first step was to get an accordion folder to keep all my paperwork organized. I labeled each section into categories I thought I would need, to include checklists, medical for myself and my dependents (separate tab for each), pet information, security, Transportation Management Office, finance, travel information and contact information for my losing and gaining bases.

Keeping myself organized through my PCS kept my stress and anxiety to a minimum. Knowing I had everything in one location made it easy for all my appointments.

Installation support agencies

The Airman and Family Readiness Center are relocation counselor gurus. They have so much information and websites to give Service members who are PCSing. Some of the information I have received from them are budgeting plans, child care and even resume writing for spouses. 

Financial

One of the other things I have set aside is a moving fund. I started this fund shortly after I joined the Air Force because I knew I could move whenever the military needed me to. Setting aside small amounts of money per month was easier for me than to come up with extra cash right before moving, which allowed me to have an emergency fund for the expected and unexpected expenses.  

Pet travel

After moving to and from an overseas location, I learned a lot about what to do and not to do by trial and error. I have two animals, who I call my fur children, who have special needs. One of them requires regular allergy shots, administered by either myself or my husband, which need to be refrigerated. If the serum becomes room temperature it will no longer be viable, which would take weeks for me to get a replacement because it is made specifically for his allergies. 

While moving from Alaska to Colorado, I called the airline helpdesk on a weekly basis for a month prior to our departure. My main concern was getting frozen icepacks through security checkpoints to keep the allergy serum cold. Between working with my Alaskan veterinarian and the airlines, I was able to provide enough documentation for security clearance to travel with frozen icepacks.

Organization throughout the PCS process has been the main lesson I learned over the years. Without it, each move would have been more stressful than what was necessary.