Article by: Samantha Dean
I have had two official PCS moves with the military. The first one, from North Carolina to Hawaii was pretty bad – a lot of stuff was broken, and there were several things missing as well. It took a lot of fighting and a lot of time, but eventually we reconciled everything and we got all the money we were owed. So when it came time for us to move again, this time back to the mainland, I was ready. Of course my husband was in school in California while I was trying to get the whole thing planned. Before he left, I made sure I had all the Powers of Attorney I would need. We had discussed my plan (which was mostly me being frantic, and him trying to calm me down and remind me that the Corps does what the Corps wants) and I was ready to tackle this move alone, and have a better end result than before.
I dropped him off at the airport in October and drove straight to DMO and said, ‘Ok. What can I do NOW?’ My husband was in Recruiter’s school, so they wouldn’t cut orders until it was a sure thing he’d graduate – which would be pretty late in the course, and close to Christmas, but we’ll get to that in a minute. (And they refused to accept my assurance that my husband would not only graduate, but would be top of the class, like freaking always.) Without orders, there wasn’t much I could do other than put my request in the move.mil site. So I did. I hurried to sell things, to box things, to give things away, to get things organized for a trans Pacific move around Christmas.
And then, because, you know, military, I waited.
Until December 12. We had been assigned our location near Thanksgiving but they didn’t cut orders then. I probably asked my husband daily if he had received orders. He finally kind of yelled at me and promised he would tell me when he got them. You see, I had my plan and my plan required us to leave Hawaii as close to Christmas as possible due to our oldest daughter, Cailin, being in school. And every day that he didn’t get orders dropped the odds of that happening.
But on December 12, I was at a friend’s house getting ready to go for a run when Caleb finally sent me a text. “Web orders are in. Trying to get you a copy.” I jumped with excitement, cancelled the run, and flew to DMO. Of course, the first thing they asked was if I had orders. I told them web orders, and they said I had to go to IPAC and get a hard copy. I ran to IPAC, expecting a long wait as usual, but caught them at just the right time – a Gunnery Sergeant was the Marine who printed me a copy! I ran back to DMO and got seen immediately. (Honestly, I think they were just tired of me and wanted me to move as much as I did.) When the Marine asked when I wanted pack out to be, I looked him dead in the eye and said, ‘Tomorrow.’
It needed to be the next day because our street was getting closed the following week for construction – which meant the movers wouldn’t be able to get to the house. The week after that was Christmas and I didn’t want the movers to have to work then, and like I said – I wanted to be gone before Christmas. That way we could get to our new town with plenty of time to find a house and get settled and be able to get Cailin in her new school on the first day back.
The Marine laughed a little, and said something placating. I then asked if I could request to NOT have the company that unpacked us when we arrived as all the damage and theft was from them. (They were not very smart and rewrapped and repacked in their paper and boxes, not the company in NC or the company that transported.) At this point, the Marine looked at me like I was high. He very politely explained that he could note that, but as I wanted a pack out the next day, it was not likely to matter. We moved on, did all the paperwork, and I left, completely convinced I would not be getting packed out the next day.
So I went home, put the toddler, Madelyn, down for her nap, and, like any sane person would do, resumed painting my older daughter’s dresser. And then my phone rang. It was a moving company. The coordinator would be there in an hour for the walk through and four movers would be there the next day.
I immediately called in the reinforcements – and thank goodness for them. One friend came over to help me take down Christmas, one friend picked Cailin up from school, another volunteered to take Madelyn during pack out, another took Cailin to school, and three neighbors came to be with me while the movers were there.
We managed to get the house ready and we even locked all the things we needed to keep in my bathroom. Packing was tricky, because we were leaving a private school with uniforms in Hawaii in December to move to Tennessee. But we did it.
Pack out went surprisingly smoothly. The movers were prompt, polite, and took excellent care of all our stuff. My awesome neighbors stepped up and loaned us tables and chairs and even a tiny Christmas tree. My husband graduated (not the top, but darned close just like I told DMO) and came home to an empty house. I continued gently asking him to please get us on a flight as soon as possible. I had been researching the small town we were heading to, and the rental options were not plentiful, so my concern about moving was heightened. He kept telling me he would do what he could, but he was being told we would not leave before the New Year.
And then he came home with tickets for the day after Christmas.
I still don’t know how he did it, and I don’t really care. We got our cars on the same boat two days before we flew and had another amazing neighbor loan us their extra car for the last two days. We did our last round of goodbyes, the girls got to open a few presents under our tiny borrowed tree, we had a lovely Christmas brunch at the Hale Koa in Honolulu, and we walked Waikiki beach one last time. The next day, we finished cleaning the house, went for lunch at our favorite ramen restaurant, and got our ride to the airport where we all celebrated with drinks (Madelyn had juice, and Cailin got something fruity). There were no issues on either flight or the layover.
We landed and did have to wait an hour for one of our bags, but it landed and we drove to my in laws. Our visit was wonderful and we were all sad to leave on January 2 – but I was still antsy to get a house. We got to our new town and started our house search the next day. It was pretty easy – we looked at every three bedroom two bathroom in the county. There were five. We found one we liked that was huge and about five minutes from his office and applied that day. That evening, they called and said we’d been approved. Once we had the lease, I was able to get Cailin enrolled in her new school on the first day. We had just enough hotel days to stay until my parents arrived with air mattresses and kitchen supplies. We spent the time getting the house ready – painting, patching, cleaning. My parents showed up just in time to help us paint the enormous living room. We were all cleaning and painting when the movers called – they had our stuff, two weeks early. A few hours later, I got called because both the cars had arrived. Caleb and I couldn’t believe our luck.
A few days before our stuff arrived, I dropped him at the bus depot to catch a ride to Atlanta. He picked up both cars with no issues and was back before dinner. The movers called before they came and said they were running late – our cartons didn’t fit on their trucks, so they had to open them. Caleb and I slightly freaked out. That’s what the last movers did, and then they helped themselves to our stuff. But the movers showed up a few hours later, with all our stuff. Nothing was even broken. We again questioned our luck…but not too much.
When all the dust was settled, and all the boxes were gone, we spent a few minutes just sitting staring at each other. Everything – everything – had gone so smoothly, exactly how we wanted it to go. We were more confused than anything. We had never heard of a PCS going so well. We had been so prepared for a fight again. I had a binder of moving information, receipts, pictures. And I hadn’t needed any of it. It was a huge relief, but unsettling. It’s been almost two years, so the disbelief has worn off. We should be moving in around a year, or year and a half. I’m a little anxious, but at least now that I’ve had one great PCS, I know it’s a possibility that it could happen again. The Perfect PCS. Was it just a Christmas miracle, or is it possible in the future?
We are all used to hearing the horror stories, but we do know that good PCS experiences happen too! We would love to hear about all of the ways your PCS move went right. Please share your #PCSwin stories in the comments! And as always, help us share the information that matters most to the military family during a PCS move by creating your FREE account and reviewing capabilities at PCSgrades.com!
Bio: Samantha Dean was born and raised in Northern Virginia, but now lives in her fourth state thanks to her husband being a Marine. Samantha writes, edits, bakes, volunteers, sews, and runs. She and her husband have two little girls and a fish.