Moving around is a reality of being in the military, as you already know. Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders have a way of reminding you that moving trucks and house-hunting are almost as much a part of your service life as your ID cards and uniform. Moving can be stressful, but at the same time a PCS can be exciting and beneficial, both for your career and your family. The trick of how to minimize the stress of a PCS is to do what you can to reduce some of the inevitable stressors that come with a military reassignment.
How to Minimize the Stress of a PCS
To minimize the stress of a PCS it’s important to be as proactive as possible when you’re facing a PCS. The problem, of course, is you can’t actually do anything in terms of real planning until you have your orders in hand. Sometimes it feels like your command waits until the absolute last minute before giving you those documents that you need to start making appointments and scheduling transportation pickup and all the thousand other things that go into leaving one assignment and reporting to another. Don’t obsess over that. You’ll just give yourself an ulcer and it won’t help anything, anyway. There are still plenty of things you can do while you’re waiting for your actual orders.
Service members today have the advantage of an incredible tool that their predecessors never had – the internet. Your preparation for a PCS should involve as much online research as you can into the details of your new assignment. Got questions about whether to live on post or off? What’s the waiting list for quarters? What are the good things and bad things about the local communities that you might choose to live in? How are the local schools rated? What about traffic patterns, commuting times, crime problems, population demographics? All of those questions can be answered by a few hours online, both on military and civilian websites, and that means you can start thinking about where you want to live, and in what type of housing, and everything else you need to decide. The internet is your best asset, so use it! If you have time and can afford it, it can also be very helpful to make a short trip out to your new installation, especially if you’re thinking of buying a house and want to recon the local neighborhoods. If you have pinpoint orders for a specific unit, be sure to look online for that unit’s Family Support Group and other useful contacts.
Another way to minimize the stress of a PCS is to request school-stabilization so that your PCS takes place during a break in the school year, if you have school aged children. That has the advantage of being less disruptive, particularly for high school students. PCS orders can be amended to allow for this, but it won’t happen if you don’t ask. The summer months are peak season for military moves, across all branches of DOD, so it is crucial that you contact the Transportation Office on your current installation as soon as possible to get on the schedule for packing and pickup of household goods. DOD is trying to simplify and streamline the contracted mover process for service members, but it will take a while for that new system to take effect. Be sure to access the official information sites that your branch provides for PCS questions, because there is a wealth of good advice available there.
Don’t forget to use your personal networks. Wherever you’re going in the military, you probably have a few colleagues or friends who’ve been there themselves and can tell you about it. They’ve also done a few PCS moves before, and their practical advice can be invaluable. And don’t be shy about asking for help, especially from your chain of command – that’s part of their job, after all.
Most importantly, the surest way to destress your PCS is to emphasize the positive things about it. A new assignment means news experiences, new friends, growth, change, and progress. It’s challenging, but it’s also exciting and rewarding. It’s just part of the military life, and you’re a professional. You got this!
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