The Essential Guide to PCS’ing OCONUS

person with toy airplane on world map

My first big PCS experience was an outside the continental U.S. (OCONUS) move.

My husband pretty much handled everything at the time, due to our wedding being a few weeks after our pack out. I was knee-deep in planning for the wedding, so the logistics of the move were on his to do list. We moved from Groton, CT to Guam in November of 2018. Not even two years later and we are currently in the process of moving from Guam to Hawaii. Having my husband deployed during a pandemic is a challenge in itself but throw in an overseas move and as a newcomer to PCS’ing and that’s a whole different ball game. It’s been interesting to say the least. But I am here to share with you a step-by-step list of what I did along the way, with some tips and tricks that I learned during the process.

So let’s paint the picture: hard orders have been received and you are in the process of decluttering your home and organizing to get ready for the PCS ahead. If you are anything like me, which is a bit OCD, you will appreciate these step-by-step instructions. But always remember that every family situation, command andduty station are different and your move may not look exactly like mine, but I think this is a good start.  Also, there’s that small part about things constantly changing in the Navy as well.

But hopefully this will be helpful:

Personal Property & Housing:

Obtain Your Power of Attorneys (POAs)

Make sure you have all the POAs that are needed for your move, especially if your sailor is deployed. Specific POAs needed for this are:

*A list of all power of attorneys are located here. Please look over and make sure you have all POAs that are specific for your families situation. 



Schedule Your HHG Move

  • Go to https://move.mil/ to begin the process of scheduling your HHG. Click on “Sign In” to DPS at the bottom of the page.
    1. Login with User ID and password (your sailor should know this information)
    2. If you or your sailor have not logged in within the past six months, the account will be locked. A contact number should be provided on the screen. Call this number to have your account unlocked. You will need to provide the social security number (SSN) of the service member to do so. 

  • Once you have been granted access, complete the form.

  • Contact your local Household Goods (HHG) or Personal Property Office to sign forms and schedule your pack out date.

  • Once your HHG pack out has been scheduled and assigned to a moving company, you should receive an email or phone call from that company to set up a pre-pack out inspection. This will help them determine the amount of supplies and crates they will need to pack your stuff.

  • Contact your Housing Office to set up a pre-check out meeting. This is required for both on base and off base residents. If you live on base you will have a pre-walk through to go over everything you will need to do to the home before your final walk-through and checkout.

  • Now it’s time to execute your HHG and, if you live on base, have your final walk-through and check out of housing.

  • If a hotel is needed before flying out, housing can assist with your temporary lodging allowance (TLA) options.

Ship Your Vehicle:

Unfortunately, the military will only pay for one car to be shipped overseas per family. Although I feel this is a very outdated way of handling things that can cause financial stress, it’s a bit out of our control. We chose to ship one car and buy what is considered a “Guam Bomb” when we arrived.

Below are step-by-steps on shipping a vehicle (the process should be the same wherever you are:)

  1. Go to PCSmyPOV.

  2. Click “Turn In” at the top of the page  and “Schedule Now.”

  3. Choose a Date and Time to drop off your vehicle.

  4. In the General Information tab provide name of service member, email, VIN number of vehicle and order number.
    • The order number (SDN) is found on your orders under the ‘Accounting Data’ Section (the fourth page of the orders for me). 

  5. If you do not own the vehicle, you must get a Shipping Authorization Letter from your lender including the year, make, model and VIN of the vehicle stating that it can be shipped to your destination.

  6. Complete the forms and bring all documents listed here (and below) to your appointment.
    • Form 1797 (should be a form filled out when processing and scheduling your HHG shipment)
    • Copy of car owner’s driver’s license(if not the service member, then you will also need a copy of the service member’s driver’s license or passport).
    • Shipping Authorization Letter from lender if you do not own the car.
    • Proof that there are no recalls for your specific vehicle. Insert your VIN into this website and print out a copy.

*It is always best to stop by the Vehicle Processing Center (VPC) or email your paperwork BEFORE the date of turning in your car just to ensure you have everything you need to ship the vehicle.


Travel:

Obtain All Necessary Paperwork

If you plan to fly out before your sailor, you will need two important pieces of paperwork:

  1. Your sailor can request an Advanced Dependent Travel Approval from their command. This will be required for the Navy to book your flight and for you to begin receiving Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) at your new duty station, if this is what you wish to do.

  2. Currently, you must also have a COVID PCS Waiver. This is something that your sailor should also request from their command.

  3. You will also need a copy of your Page 2 (Dependent Verification). Your service member should be able to provide you with this.  If they cannot due to deployment, you can retrieve one from Personnel Support Detachment (PSD) but you must have the Special POA for PSD as listed above to do so. 

Check-Out Before You Leave

There is a specific check-in process for your new duty station. But before you leave, make sure you do the following:

  1. Contact Navy Family Housing and inform them of your move. 

  2. Submit a copy of your orders and necessary paperwork. This includes Page 2 (dependent verification), Advanced Travel Waiver (if moving before your sailor), as well as a copy of the DD Form 1746 – Application for Assignment to Housing

  3. Contact housing up to 30 days prior to arrival to schedule an appointment in advance. In Hawaii, appointments are currently being done over the phone instead of in person due to COVID. Other duty stations may be different. 

  4. Be prepared to quarantine. When you arrive at your new duty station, you may have to comply to a Restriction of Movement (ROM) for two weeks. Most overseas locations are currently requiring this. You must first check with the Navy Lodge, if there is one at your new duty station, to see if they have availability for your stay. If they do not, request a Non-Availability Lodging Form. If there is a Navy Lodge in the area, you must have this in order to get reimbursed if you stay elsewhere. Be sure to ask housing for an approved TLA Hotel list before booking your stay, as well as the TLA reimbursement amount so you can stay within the approved cost range.

  5. Be aware of our reimbursement situation. With COVID and ROM being a new hurdle, things are constantly changing  In my current situation, I have been informed that the command will be the one to reimburse us for our ROM hotel stay. After we have completed ROM, TLA will begin. We will submit a Travel Claim through Squadron. Again… things are constantly changing and are different for every situation so check with your Ombudsman and/or command for more information in regard to this. 

Check-In When You Arrive

  1. Check-in with your new command to have the orders stamped with your arrival date.

  2. Meet with the housing office to discuss your options. You will then choose to accept or decline base housing.

    Note, that if you are at an overseas duty station you will receive Overseas Housing Allowance (OHA) instead of BAH. The main difference with this is that with OHA you are not allowed to keep the excess of your allowance if your off-base house/apartment is less than your allotment. You do receive a utility allowance which varies on your location but  is available to help cover utility bills. If you are going to be moving OCONUS, I highly recommend you look into the OHA allotments for your specific duty station and how it differs from BAH. 


Tips & Tricks

  1. Rely heavily on your old and new Ombudsman. He or she can provide you with proper information and answer questions. Don’t hesitate to reach out to specific commands or departments as needed for information if need be. BE PROACTIVE! Learn more on Ombudsmen here.

  2. Gather all of your high-value items in one area. Request that the movers pack those items first. I also had an inventory list having all of the high-value items listed first. For more general pack-out tips, click here.

  3. Document your crates. With an OCONUS move, all your belongings are packed up and placed inside wooden crates. These crates are boarded up and a sticker with your signature is placed on each side of every box  (four stickers per box). Be sure to take pictures of each crate to have for your files.

  4. Check your Power of Attorneys. Make sure you have all of the proper POA’s, especially if you are handling the move while your service member is deployed. This is VERY important! For more on POA’s, click here.

  5. PCS’ing with pets is a whole different ball game. If you have pets, be sure to check out the PCSing with Pets Facebook group. Airline rules and processes are constantly changing their policies.

  6. Don’t stress if you don’t have your flight itinerary a week before you fly out. Believe it or not, this is common. When we moved from Groton to Guam we didn’t have our itinerary until the day before we flew out. This is one of those unfortunate situations that you just roll with… which is difficult for us OCD people.

  7. Ask ALL the questions and contact ALL the people, especially if your service member is deployed.  This is my first PCS solo and I feel like I am now a pro.  I dove into it and made sure I knew everything there was to know about the process. 

I hope this will be helpful for anyone PCS’ing overseas, especially during COVID.  Questions?  Please don’t hesitate to reach out. I will do my best to help answer what I can, or at least point you in the right direction. 

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