Advice From a Seasoned PCSer

By Crystal Cavalier, Army Spouse and Blogger at Army Tankers Wife.


The Cavalier family watches as their belongings get packed away.

I guess you can call this the start of PCS season.

I have learned a few things about doing a PCS move over the years. I hate to say this but I have now become a “seasoned” Army Wife.

I can still remember when I was brand new Army Wife. It is almost as painstaking as watching your oldest child turn ten and wonder, “What?  When did this happen?” A lot has changed since the first PCS we did 12 years ago and the one I did 10 months ago (by myself.) I have participated in two DITY moves, and four PCS moves and I tell you what, I am not keen on packing and moving myself anymore. We have a lot of heavy furniture and a family of five plus a dog.

Here is some advice to help you along on your next move:

  • Download SargesList’s PCS Guide! It will help your organize your move.
  • You now do many things online at whereas a few years ago you would have to go to an outbound transportation briefing, wait in line at the base/installation transportation office and yadda, yadda yadda. Now one thing you still have to physically do is go to the transportation office, and depending on your base, you may have a short wait. Nine times out of ten your sponsor will usually be doing this, but in that rare instance like mine, the spouse handles it (my husband was already in Korea I had to handle the moving of our household goods.)
  • Make sure your power-of-attorney is in great condition and not expired! Also, make sure you have your ID card and your sponsor‚Äôs PCS Orders (without those things you aren‚Äôt going anywhere)! When you get past that first initial conversation you log onto their computer system and complete an Online Self Counseling (this allows the Service Member or Spouse to enter their move information and establish their shipment in DPS) and, boom! you‚Äôre done.
  • Remember you have a weight allowance, which is based on your sponsor‚Äôs rank. So, it is best to stay within those guidelines or the military will take that extra weight allowance out of your sponsor‚Äôs pay (trust me you do not want that). SargesList is a great way to get rid of that extra weight by selling extra clothes, toys and other household goods — and you are making some extra cash too. My best organizational strategies are to stay organized by using to do lists, working with your movers as early as you can, and developing a plan. When moving day arrives, your planning is sure to be effective.

Here are some tips that I use and these have developed out of things going wrong, getting broken, lost in transit and or just hilarious results:

    • ¬†Take pictures and document. On the day before the movers arrived, I went around the house with the digital and video camera and took pictures of everything. I also made sure to write down the serial numbers of all of our electronics and the computers. If you have valuables, collectibles or anything that you treasure pack them yourself. Be sure to leave room in the car for a few of these items. On our PCS move from Ft. Riley to Ft. Bragg, we used two U-Haul trailers in tow filled with things we wanted to move ourselves.
    • Stay with the movers while they pack! Watch them as they are packing your things especially when it comes to the breakables. If they seem to be clumsy with your items, speak up but do it in a nice way.
    • Be sure they list your items in detail. There will be a packing list that you must sign off on before they leave. For example, don‚Äôt let them just write television. It should reflect the brand, serial number, screen size, etc. Otherwise, you could end up with something different and you won‚Äôt be able to prove they packed it. I have lost several items in a move, and my husband is just amazed at how much stuff I know we used to have. Check everything before you sign. Once you have signed, you have agreed to the inventory list. I have a little saying ‚ÄúIf it‚Äôs not on the list, it doesn‚Äôt exist‚Äù. Make sure the boxes and large items are labeled. The movers should number the boxes and the numbers should match the inventory sheet.
    • Be sure to take medicine, doctor‚Äôs orders/medical records, school records, official orders, birth certificates,

      A HHG shipment being loaded: a familiar sight to military families everywhere.

      A HHG shipment being loaded: a familiar sight to military families everywhere.

    • marriage license, social security cards, power-of-attorney‚Äôs, will‚Äôs, important documents, etc.; these should all go with you in your car.

Here is a survival kit for the new duty station:

  • These are the items that are going to be essential – trust me. Our first PCS move I didn’t take anything but clothes and, YES we paid for it later. We were broke until payday, because we had to make a security deposit on a new place and pay for all the utilities to be turned on.
  • A telephone and if you have kids a (small DVD player with DVDs).
  • Take toiletry items including toilet paper, paper towels and bath towels.
  • Make sure you also have pillows and blankets. We also take two air mattresses.
  • Take items essential for your pets.
  • Be sure to leave out paper plates, napkins, plastic utensils, etc. so you can still eat while they are packing your things. This will also make it easier and much cheaper when you get to your new place until you find all of your dishes.
  • Try to pack a cooler with sandwich meat, snacks and drinks.
  • Also one last important thing, try not to dwell on the uncomfortable because you will look back one day and laugh. These PCS trips make the best memories!

Keep a few things to keep in mind once you get to your new duty station and your HHGs arrive:

  • Check off the inventory list as they bring items in.
  • Do NOT sign the final inventory until everything has been accounted for.
  • If the movers took it apart, then they should put it back together for you.
  • Try to go through all of your items as soon as possible so you can note anything that is broken. The movers should leave you with instructions on what to do if this happens. You need to follow the directions exactly or you might not get reimbursed on broken items.

I want to wish you and your family the best and may your PCS move be ‚ÄúFair Winds and Following Seas.”



2. Find out information about your next duty station on Military Duty Stations!

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