PCS orders are structured into multiple parts that all contain important information regarding your upcoming move. What you need to coordinate a move is the Title Section, Detaching Activity, Intermediate Activity, Ultimate Activity, and any Special Instructions listed out at the bottom.
This contains a lot of military standard message formatting that may look like a foreign language, but there are two CRITICAL parts to this area. The first is the part that says “BUPERS ORDER”- that four digit number is what you will need when you schedule your move on Move.mil. The second is the Date-Time-Group (DTG) of the orders at the very top. Look for it under ROUTINE- an example looks like this: 140006Z OCT 20. Translated, this means that the orders were transmitted on 14 OCT 2020 at 0006Z (ZULU) time. You will also need this on Move.mil when they are asking for the date of your orders- just worry about the actual date, the time isn’t as important.
This section directs the current command to detach your spouse. Again, there is a lot of detailer/HR specific information, but the important thing for you is the EDD (Estimated Detach Date). That is the month and year your spouse is directed to detach (leave) their current command. It only gives you the month, as the orders are written for you to detach on any day during that calendar month. However, based on your spouse’s position, the current command may have turnover requirements for their position so be sure to check with them on when their actual detach day is. Additionally, you could see in this section a “DETACH NOT EARLIER THAN” statement. Your spouse’s detailer can put a specific date in the orders at the request of the current or gaining command depending on the job they are leaving or reporting to. If you are overseas, that date can be used to ensure you can defer your Continuous Overseas Travel (COT) leave- more on that for another post.
If your spouse has training to attend, schools, etc, this will appear before the ultimate activity. The format is the same, all it does is tell you where to go and for how long. Why isn’t the Submarine Officer Advanced Course (SOAC) an intermediate activity with your boat as the Ultimate? SOAC is a 6 month school which entitles you to a PCS move- when you actually get to SOAC, you’ll get new orders with your boat allowing you to move again. If detailers wrote it as an intermediate, you wouldn’t get a move, which would not be fun for you or your family.
Besides finally getting orders in your email inbox, this is the next section you are probably very excited to finally see as it tells you where you are finally going! Again, a lot of detailer/HR information but the most important part besides the location is the EDA (Estimated Date of Arrival). This has the same rules as the EDD- you have that entire month to report to your next command. However, be aware that there are standard proceed times between locations and if you take longer than that to check-in to your next command, you will be charged leave. Your spouse should have that information from the personnel office (Yeomen on a submarine) when they check out. Lastly, there can be a “REPORT NOT LATER THAN” section (similar to DETACH NOT EARLIER THAN)- this gives you a specific date in your EDA month to report to the next command. What is involved in reporting? All your spouse needs to do is show up in the Uniform of the Day and get their orders stamped (that will also ensure that they won’t get charged leave).
The next two sections are Detaching Activity and Ultimate Activity instructions. Make sure you and your spouse read these in depth and ask any questions you might have to either your current command or your detailer. There can be specific items for your spouse must complete prior to detaching the current command and before reporting to the next command. Examples could be medical items, security clearance information, overseas travel, etc. Again, if you have questions, ask!
This section mainly goes over any last-minute information to include Tricare, pay information, and travel claim information. A lot of it you just need to read, but have no action to take. Still…as they say…read the orders in their entirety.
Lastly, at the very bottom right above the signature line there could be sections added by your spouse’s detailer indicating what version of the orders you are looking at (MOD1, MOD2, etc) or, if you are traveling overseas, it will list all the members of your family that are listed as dependents on your “Page 2” (this allows them to travel overseas…more on that in a later post). In all, just make sure you check that section if there are multiple versions of your spouse’s orders or for any free text information the detailer may have left for you.
Orders can be complicated…but there are lots of resources available to help you in your journey. Ask friends, your spouse’s chain of command, the detailer, and even Google…you would be surprised on what you can find. In the end, don’t suffer in silence- ask questions!