13 July 2015

So You’re PCSing and Have to Move Everything?

LTC Mark Beattie, US ARMY

Whether you are about to experience your first Permanent Change of Station (PCS) move or you’re an “old hand” at moving within the Department of Defense (DoD) system, moving your household is stressful! No matter how much you prepare, your move is going to be a challenge. However, planning and preparation will go a long way to reduce your anxiety and limit the chances of damaged or lost property.
If this is your first move, you probably don't have a large household so the potential for loss or damage is limited. However, the longer you're on active duty, the more you will acquire, making each move more difficult. If possible, do your own inventory well before the movers arrive onsite. You might be surprised how much “stuff” you’ve managed to accumulate, and you may even find that “must buy” thing you purchased years ago. If utilizing DoD contracted movers, do the best you can to supervise everything they pack and place on the truck. This will be difficult if the moving company contracts to have multiple people onsite to make your move.
Be most wary of "high dollar" items or those items that cannot be replaced. If possible, pack and take your high dollar items with you, as well as those personal items that cannot be replaced at any cost. You have the option to pre-pack items you prefer no one else handle. If you choose to do this, be present when it is sealed by the movers and added to the master inventory list. And if possible, watch these items loaded onto the truck. Many of the movers tend to be very general when describing the items they are packing. As a result, it often becomes difficult to identify what may not make it to your destination.
I made so many moves over my 28-year career that it was literally years sometimes before I discovered items that somehow never made it to my destination.  I am not implying that all movers are dishonest, but the truth is if you move enough times, the odds are you'll end up with someone who will take advantage of you, given the opportunity.
If you’re moving overseas, you’ll likely be limited on how much total weight you can ship, forcing some of your personal property to be placed in storage for the duration of your tour.  You need to inquire with your local transportation office on how your property will be stored. For example, will it be loaded and stored in a sealed container; or simply loaded onto the truck with your other things and be unloaded and left sitting unprotected in a warehouse somewhere for 1 – 3 years? It could be pilfered, repeatedly moved about, or left exposed to an uncontrolled warehouse environment. I speak from personal experience when I say items stored in warehouses without sealed containers have a high probability of returning to you damaged and broken. If you have something very important to you that you can’t take overseas, try to find someone willing to store it for you while you’re gone.
PCS moves can become so stressful and tiring that you will want to simply give up and allow the movers to pack and load your stuff and hope it all makes it to your new duty station. If you fall into this trap, you'll increase your risk of something being broken, lost, or stolen. Don't lose that Master Inventory list! You'll need it when you receive your items at your next duty station…and don't assume your Master Inventory will match what the movers have.  If you’re placing items into storage, put that inventory list somewhere you can find it in 1-3 years. If you don’t, you’ll probably not recall what’s on the list.  I assume DoD still offers Do It Yourself (DITY) moves, which places all the work on you, but you’ll be guaranteed that everything is packed within your standards, and will arrive at your next duty station.
Whatever your circumstance is, whether this is your first move, or simply your next of many moves you’ve made over the years, preparation, planning, and supervision are the keys to a successful move. Good luck!!
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