AKA: Permanent change of station.
AKA: Like it or not, you are moving.
PCS. How three little letters can mean so much. You will be uprooted. Things will be chaotic. It will be very stressful. Say goodbye to your friends, coworkers and supervisors. You are leaving.
I recently heard that moving is the third most stressful event in a persons life. Preceded only by death of an immediate family member and divorce. Pretty serious stuff.
I have just PCS’d to Germany from Belgium. I was very happy in Belgium and would gladly stayed for three or four more years, but Uncle Sam said it was time to go. So I went.
Four hours down the road. I’m now a member of the 33rd Army Band. My NATO days are a fond memory.
You would be amazed and how much paperwork and hoopla is involved for such a short move. Granted, I did leave one foreign country to move to another one, but come on! It’s only four hours away!
So why am I writing about moving here at musicianwages? Because moving is a big part of life in the Army band. I’ve been doing this job for almost 16 years. This is my 6th band. If you consider Basic Training, Army Music school and a couple of combat tours in Iraq as well, I’ve moved 10 times. That’s a lot of moves.
Allow me to shed a little light on the PCS process. There are several steps that can take anywhere from a couple weeks to a couple of months depending on where you are coming from and where you are going to.
First you must clear your current post
You will run around the base getting paperwork and signatures from anybody and everybody. This always involves lots of backtracking, frustration and revisiting the same folks various times. An extremely important signature is always needed from someone who just left for a 3 week vacation. And when you go to get your last stamp and turn in all your paperwork, you’ll be thrilled to learn the office is taking a half day, because it’s Friday. Not to worry, they’ll be back on Monday, but you’re flying to Spain the next morning… Groan.
You must pack up your house
The good news is that the Army will pay a company to move you. They come to your house, pack up all your belongings and load them onto a truck. All you have to do is stand around and point (I usually buy them lunch, as well). This can be a bit unnerving as you watch the movers sprint from one room to the next grabbing random items (trash can, toys, bed sheets, toaster) throwing them all into a large box before sealing it up and labeling it… clothes.
You take a vacation
This is not mandatory, but I highly recommend it. And you are completely free to relax. There’s nothing lingering at work. No big project on the horizon. You are totally finished with your last post, and have yet to start with your new one. It’s as close as you can get to being unemployed, while still getting paid.
I left cold and rainy Belgium to spend a week on the sun drenched beaches of Spain (also highly recommended). Then I moved to my new home, cold and rainy Germany.
You arrive at your new post. You now repeat the process in reverse.
You find a house
You will be given between a week to ten days to franticly scour the area searching out a home in your price range. You’ll consider all the important questions – Do they take pets? Is one toilet enough for a family of four? What school district will we be in? Is it really a good idea to live on top of a bar? You will be given a monthly housing allowance based on your rank.
Of course, if lodging is available you could choose to live on post. You won’t receive a housing allowance, but you don’t have to worry about paying rent or utilities. Go ahead, keep it at 90 degrees all winter and 50 during the summer. It’s covered.
Personally, I prefer to live off post. This is mainly due to the fact that I enjoy driving AWAY from my work at the end of the day. But that’s just me.
You in-process your new post
Same deal as before. Run around visiting lots of folks you’ll most likely never see again until you need their signature to clear.
You get your stuff back
The moving truck rolls up and you get to discover what didn’t survive. The movers unload you, reassemble your furniture and place things in the room of your choosing. You can ask them to unpack all the boxes, but I don’t know anybody who has actually done that. And besides, then you’d miss the pleasure of discovering that all your workout shoes came over in the cooler… mmmm cold beer anyone? If anything is destroyed you will be reimbursed.
You go back to work, at you new job
Believe me, by the time you finally get to this point, you are READY to start playing in a band again!
If all this sounds like an inconvenience, I’m not doing it justice. It’s Much Worse. And I’m a bit of a nomad. I actually enjoy living in different places every few years.
I just don’t like moving.