By Carla Olivo, USMC Spouse

“We’ve got orders.”

Three very powerful words that can be good news or dreaded news for a military family. My spouse usually didn’t even have to say it. I just knew by the look on his face. It was time to PCS….again.

I have to admit. Most of the time, I was ready. Not that I didn’t enjoy where I was but after about 18 months in any given location, I would start to get “the itch.” You start looking around the house, and you feel the urge to start purging. You begin to get weary of the wall color or that fireplace you fell in love with a mere year and a half ago. It’s time to make a change. It’s time to go.

Despite wanting to move on to new adventures, I never look forward to the downside of PCSing: looking for new schools, looking to buy a house at the height of a seller’s market, carefully organizing each room before the packers arrive only to have the garden hose packed in the same box as my wedding dress. (true story) And to top it off, there is always the damage and lost items at the back end of a PCS to look forward to.

It’s nerve-wracking! And there’s no way around it once those military orders come through. But there are some things you can do to make it a bit easier before the boxes are packed.

  1. P-U-R-G-E!

In fact, I recommend purging even if you are stuck in PCS Limbo. It will give you a sense of accomplishment to clean out the old. This is usually my first task after I’ve checked out our new duty station at Lightening the load gives a little psychological boost, and we can all use it whether we are looking forward to the move or not.

  1. Decide your housing exit plan       

If you are a renter, give your notice as early as possible. Check your lease agreement regarding military release clauses. Be aware of what you are responsible for and stand your ground if they try to charge you for normal wear and tear. Our townhouse management company once tried to charge us for new carpeting. The carpeting when we moved in was several years old and in terrible shape. I also knew they had begun replacing the carpeting in all the units and that ours was due to be replaced in the next few months, so there was no way we were going to pay for it.

If you own your home, the decision needs to be made if you will sell or rent. Both scenarios have their own “to do” lists so the earlier the decision, the better. 

  1. School Records

Don’t assume these vital documents will make their way to your new school. As soon as you know what schools your children will be attending, let your old school know and confirm that the records were sent. It may take several phone calls, and if there is a snag, it’s often easier taken care of in person before you move.

  1. Medical Records

Ditto for these records too. If you are moving from one Military Treatment Facility (MTF) to another, you don’t have to worry about medical records as everything is digital these days. But if you are moving from a non-MTF to an MTF or vice versa, you will want to request copies of your records to hand deliver. You will also want to include records from any outside specialty care.

  1. Plan your move

I know this seems like a no-brainer, but it is surprising how many people don’t take the time to plan their move. Once you have your pack out dates, think about the transition. When we moved from South Florida up to central Virginia, we had a week and a half between when the truck took our HHG away and our closing date on our new house. We decided rather than spend the time in base lodging at Quantico; we took our time on the drive north. Our family spent several days exploring coastal towns in northern Florida. It was a welcome reprieve from PCSing.

On another move, we received our HHG shipment at our new duty station, unpacked for a few days and then took off on a three-week road trip. The move was early enough in the summer that it left plenty of time to unpack on our return and get the kids ready for school.

  1. Enjoy Yourself!

PCSing can be draining. Issues pop up. Things rarely go as planned. But once you know where the military is sending you and you’ve checked out your housing options on, take the last few weeks to enjoy yourself. Make the time to have lunch with friends. Let the kids have those “last” sleepovers. Even if you end up going back to this duty station, it won’t be the same. So savor what you have enjoyed about it and let go of anything that you didn’t like.

As much as PCSing can seem like a burden, and you dread being at the mercy of those military orders, it offers us an opportunity for new adventures, new friendships, and new chapters in our personal story.  Use these tips to help you get a good start on your upcoming PCS.

Carla Olivo has garnered numerous TV industry awards including the Associated Press award for Spot News Reporting, News Writing, Enterprise Reporting, and Documentary Reporting. She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband, a retired USMC Lt. Colonel and their two children. 

Carla Olivo

PCSgrades Director of Strategic Communications