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As peak PCS season approaches, some tips from an expert

By CARLOS BONGIOANNI | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 20, 2013

Considered a normal part of the “military life cycle,” the Permanent Change of Station move can be a really positive experience — or a very trying ordeal  — for military families.

With the military’s peak summer moving season fast approaching, March is typically a month that sees many servicemembers negotiating for PCS orders. Once those orders are issued, the pressure begins to mount as the moving date nears.

The Defense Department offers a number of resources that can help military families experience a smooth transition during their PCS move, according to Barbara Thompson, the director of the DOD’s Office of Family Policy.

Thompson was the guest speaker at a bloggers' roundtable hosted by the Defense Media Agency on Wednesday. She pointed out the need for military members to do their homework, and she highly recommended militaryonesource.mil, a DOD-sponsored website that offers valuable information on military-related subjects, including PCS moves.

During Wednesday’s telephone conference-call discussion, Thompson stressed the need for being prepared and “knowing what you’re going to be walking into,” when a military family moves. “If you don’t know, you can make some really expensive mistakes.”

She said some families who don’t do their homework end up having to move more than once because the school district serving the area to which they have moved doesn’t meet the needs of their child. Or, she said, a second move is required to reduce commute time to and from work. That’s an added disruption to family life that can magnify the stress the family is already under, she said.

Having a financial plan that makes allowances for unexpected expenses “that pop up on you” is another very important prerequisite for successful moves, Thompson said. Sometimes servicemembers who run out of cash during a move might have to borrow money from a source where they may not get “a reasonable loan” she said.

The “Plan My Move” option at militaryonesouce is probably the most commonly used resource tool at the website, said Thompson. It allows people to set up a calendar tailored to their specific needs, whether or not they have children or pets that will be moving to the new installation.

For those new to the military who may be preparing for their first PCS move, Thompson recommended they seek out guidance from a relocation manager at an installation’s Family Center. While the militaryonesource website offers a high-tech approach, a relocation manager can offer a more personable “high-touch” option, Thompson said. 

And she added, always be open to valuable tips that more seasoned PCSers might have to offer.

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