Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt personally victimized by a PCS!
If you’re in the military, you probably just laugh-groaned at the thought of PCSing. Sure, you get a break from work – might see some new things, even make a little money. But dear lord out-processing is a nightmare.
Not to mention the completely separate horror of actually moving. Blech.
If you’re not in the military, “PCS” stands for “Permanent Change of Station,” a term used whenever mil personnel move to a new place. Ironically, officers ‘PCS’ every few years – nothing is permanent in the good ole Air Force! When Big Blue decides it’s time, you move from Location A (where they told you to be before) to Location B (where they tell you to be now). Your job, responsibilities, and bosses change as well.
The move from North Dakota to Massachusetts was my third PCS and easily the biggest – not just geographically, but because of my career switch. It was also complicated by the unique nature of my law program. In fact, I’m not 100% sure anyone in the DoD knows exactly what I’m doing right now. Still, I completed a standard, three-step military move.
HOW TO PCS
- Out-process from the old base
- In-process to the new base
I can assure you, however, this was NOT as easy as 1-2-3.
The whole shebang started with military orders, which verified the dates and destination of my move. Then I received an extensive out-processing checklist. Simply put, this is the military’s way of ensuring records are correctly forwarded and unit information updated. Not so simply put, this thing was four pages long and lacked any guidance. For a poor, clueless LT, it was the very definition of a Charlie Foxtrot. Shout out to the crusty prior-enlisted guys for dragging me through.
While completing this checklist, I
- Got a text (one month before leaving, while in Europe) saying, “hey, the government can’t move your stuff in time – looks like you’re doing it yourself. Sorry!”
- Visited the base vet, despite not having pets, to obtain a letter that no one ever checked.
- Took three separate trips to the base clinic because I couldn’t get my medical and dental records on the same day. And then, not until 24 hours before departure. aughhhhh
- Was thirty minutes late for my ONLY set appointment because I couldn’t navigate around base construction.
- And finally, this rock-bottom moment. The base hospital was under construction so a nice young airman was tasked with getting visitors through the mess. Unfortunately for me, I was the only visitor and he was scared of officers. We walked in awkward silence, getting lost twice before finally arriving at the eye clinic. The nice young airman tried the door and found it locked; he looked at me, shrugged, and then we both just stared at the door. and shuffled awkwardly….and kept staring. Twenty minutes later, a different airman showed up, looked at us, then opened the door. No key or anything. He just opened it – BECAUSE IT HADN’T BEEN LOCKED. 🤦🏼♀️🤦🏼♀️🤦🏼♀️
Despite this heavy adversity, I completed the dang checklist. On July 31, the personnel airman handed over my sealed envelope of duty records and told me to scram. I took it, relieved, and drove off Minot AFB for the last time.
2. THE MOVE
For this PCS, I completed a DITY move (Do-It-Yourself, but this is the military so we can’t just call it DIY). This entailed renting a U-Haul, picking it up, weighing it, loading it, weighing it again, and then driving it allllllll the way to Boston. (To be fair, Ben helped with the drive – but I did everything else). We got a few friends to lift the larger items into the truck and then I loaded the rest while Ben was at work.
That’s right. All that crap, by myself. GIRL FREAKING POWER.
We left bright and early on Saturday morning for the three-day road trip, which will star in a future post. For now, this is all you need to know:
- We both survived
- And now know WAY too much about the Golden State Killer
- Chocolate-covered almonds melt regardless of AC levels, and
- Illinois tolls are actually unreal
Twenty-nine hours later, sans almonds, we made it. On Tuesday we drove wide-eyed through Boston; partly because the city is gorgeous, partly because these crazies will hit you otherwise. This beautiful moment was captured on my instagram…see below. For more quality content please see https://www.instagram.com/riley_vann/.
Having signed a lease before leaving Minot, we rolled right into our two-bedroom Cambridge apartment. The move-in was surprisingly painless and, despite a short attention span and absent husband, I am proud to announce there are NO UNPACKED BOXES in the apartment today. Thank you, thank you very much. The place is still a work in progress though – who knew rugs were so hard to pick and SO DANG EXPENSIVE??? Whatever. We’ll get there. Back to the final stage of the PCS.
I would argue in-processing is the worst part of a PCS – usually. You aren’t familiar with the base, you don’t know where the buildings are, you aren’t sure what your new unit is like or what’s expected when you arrive. Even worse, we rolled onto Hanscom Air Force Base in our U-Haul, which screams YES HI, WE ARE NEW! AND CLUELESS! FRIENDLESS LOSERS!!!! But we got to the personnel office unscathed, and a nice civilian lady sat me down to get started.
As she handed over a “Welcome to Hanscom” checklist, I mentally prepared for a long, trying day – before realizing hardly anything on the list applied to me. I belong to a ROTC unit during school, not Hanscom, and since I hadn’t heard from the ROTC guys yet, I was IN THE CLEAR (temporarily. I meet with them this Thursday). As far as the base was concerned, I just needed to complete the ‘bare bones’ of a PCS – drop off my medical records, and file for move reimbursement. Two hours later, I returned to the personnel office with those two things completed – but convinced I wasn’t done yet. No chance the military would make something that easy!! I handed the checklist back to the personnel lady and asked,
So…that’s it? What happens now?
She snorted and said,
Now I see you next June. Don’t fail out of Harvard.