Sunday, December 09, 2012

OCONUS PCS from an ROTC gig

Apparently not too many people move from an ROTC position to an overseas assignment.  We've been running into challenges through the entire process.  I'm not complaining about specific people as almost everyone has been super helpful.  It's just that no one really seems to know exactly what needs to be done and who we're supposed to contact to take care of things.

Normally, a PCSing servicemember lives on or near a military installation with all the offices needed.  This is not our situation.  We live outside Erie, PA.  Our closest military installation is Ft. Drum in upstate New York.  Driving there to handle simple paperwork is not preferred.  Darrell's brigade is at Ft. Dix, New Jersey, and Cadet Command is in Ft. Knox, Kentucky.

Usually, Darrell would attend a levy briefing that brings all of the people to one location to explain what needs to happen, the paperwork that needs to be submitted, and which offices the paperwork needs to be submitted to.  Darrell didn't get a levy briefing.

Each step of the way has been extremely frustrating.  Darrell has literally spent hours on the phone, just looking for the name and phone number for the person he needs to talk to.  Examples:

* Exceptional Family Member Program - the Army doesn't want to send dependents to a place that cannot support physical, mental, or educational needs.  Therefore, all dependents must be screened by an EFMP coordinator.  We all went to the doctor and got physicals, filled out some other paperwork, and faxed everything to the EFMP office at Ft. Drum.  They looked it over to make sure it was completed correctly, and sent it to an office on Oahu.  Since none of us need to be enrolled in the program, the approval came back quickly.  This allowed our names to be included on his PCS orders.

* Once we received the orders (which of course required more paperwork to be filled out and sent to his brigade who forwarded it to Cadet Command to actually publish them), we were able to start the household goods moving process.  This is now handled almost completely on  However, before you can get started, you have to create an account and get log-in information.  But before I could do that, I had to get my laptop set up to use a card reader.  That was probably the easiest step in the process.  Once we were able to log in, I had to contact their help desk to find out why it wasn't working.  Ah, my pop-up blocker was on.  Why didn't they say that might be a problem?  Ok, fixed that, and ah, there's the screen we need.  Filled in all the info, selected the appropriate Ft. Dix office to approve everything, and submitted.  Only, wait - they want us to go through Carlisle Barracks?  That wasn't a choice.  Another few hours on the phone, and Darrell finally gets a name and phone number to someone that listens to our situation and agrees to help us find the right place to send this stuff.  Ok, great, there's the right fax number.  Signed and sent.  Sweet.  Still need to verify that the dates we've selected for pack-up and pick-up have been accepted.

* Now we need to move US.  The dogs are on our dime, so I won't get into that for now.  What the Army would prefer we do is drive our POV (privately owned vehicle) to the nearest Vehicle Processing Center and then fly from the nearest airport to that VPC.  Only that's not what we want to do.  I haven't seen my California family in a very long time, and since they're in the right direction, and because we want to ship our second POV as inexpensively as possible, we're going to be driving across the country to California, visiting people for a few days, and shipping the Rav4 from the west coast.  We're in luck, there's a company that ships from Oakland, great!  We happily make plans to ship the car and fly us out of Oakland.  Only wait - the Army can't fly us from Oakland because there's no Government VPC there.  Urgh.  They want us to fly from LA or San Diego.  Not interested in that, thanks.  It's about the same cost to fly the four of us from OAK to LAX as it is to drive down there, plus two nights at a hotel (because we'd need to drop the car off at the shippers, and there's no way to guarantee we could fly the same day as dropping off the car), yada yada.  So, we'll ship the car from OAK (we're paying for this one, so we can ship it from wherever we want), fly from OAK to LAX, get our bags from baggage claim, drop them off at the desk, go through security again, and then fly from LAX to HNL.  Yeah, that'll be fun.  The finance folks on this end are saying it'll almost all be on us to pay for, but I've been assured by many who've already done it that the Hawaii finance folks will cover the drive expenses.  We'll see.  Either way, we're doing it the way we want.

* And that's just the big stuff.  There's been many other this-and-that paperwork, phone calls, emails, waiting, and frustrations involved.  Fortunately, this isn't our first move so we're aware of how it all needs to happen.  I can't imagine having to do an OCONUS PCS right out of training!


  1. If you _DO_ have to handle any paperwork at Fort Drum, be sure to stop by and say hello!

  2. It's not looking like we'll need to. I'm still totally bummed we were so sick last year when you were in town. =/