Anybody who spends even a few years of their life with the military will have to move at least once. Whether it’s from your entry level training post to your first duty station or a short-term trip the umpteenth training course taken after decades in uniform, the armed forces will require you to move in the course of your service. And while it’s never an easy or simple process, knowing the specifics of moving in the military can keep it from being an even bigger headache. Forewarned, is forearmed after all.
What is a Permanent Change of Station?
The most common and regular move military personnel and their families will make is a Permanent Change of Station (PCS). It’s when you complete a tour at your current unit/duty station and move on to the next one. Depending on your billet, branch, and the needs of the service this will usually happen once every 3-4 years. You’ll usually know well in advance when your next PCS is coming up and typically receive formal orders detaching you from your current unit and assigning you to your next one 90 days out.
In some cases you might not be moving far. Other times you may be going across the country or to a different continent entirely. And, in some instances, you may “PCS” to a different unit at the exact same base (so no sweat there). But more often than not, a Permanent Change of Station will require a long move and search for new military housing, whether you’re moving to a new base within the Continental United States (CONUS) or beyond (OCONUS).
What is a Temporary Duty Move?
Over the course of your career, long or short, you’ll go through a lot of various training courses and exercises. And some of them may take place at posts other than the one you’re currently stationed at. A case like this, when you’re required to live at another base for an extended period of time (more than a month but rarely more than 20 weeks) without moving there, is called a Temporary Duty (TDY) Move.
Just like a full PCS, the costs of your TDY will be covered by the military. But since you’re not moving in a permanent sense, you won’t be moving much (if any) of your household goods. You’ll probably be put up in on-base housing or a hotel paid for by the DoD and only bring the essentials, personal items, and whatever gear you’re required to have. So there’s a weight limit (based on rank) to what the government will ship if you can’t carry everything you want for a TDY with you.
Types of Moves
When we’re talking about military moves, that’s sort of an umbrella term. There are actually several different ways you can be moved between duty stations. Depending on your orders, circumstances, and how much help you need from the DoD to you may have to conduct a specific type of move. Other times you may be able to pick which category your move falls under. The different classifications are as follows:
Household Goods (HHG)
Transportation Service Provider, or TSP, is the official term for a moving company hired by the government to conduct your move. Allowing the DoD to hire a TSP and take care of all the needs of your move for you is called an HHG move. It’s a great way for those with just too much to do in daily life to take much of the difficulty of moving off your plate. It can be used for PCS moves anywhere in the world.
Officially called a personally procured move (or PPM), this is when you organize and oversee the move on your own. Whether you rent a moving truck and hire people to do the job for you or simply cram whatever you own into the trunk of your car, the government will pay you 95% of the estimated cost to move your stuff. And if that’s more than you actually paid, no need to return the change. Any overage you received is yours to keep. Based on your needs, you can get up to 60% in advance. It can be applied to a PCS in CONUS or overseas or a TDY in CONUS.
Unaccompanied Baggage (UB)
This one entails the government sending a bunch (but not all) of your stuff to where you’re headed at an expedited speed. Used for people going TDY somewhere in CONUS or OCONUS they’ll need more than a carry-on bag. Also available to people PCS-ing overseas who want to have enough household goods that they can start putting a home together while waiting for the rest.
For those not in the know, POV is one of the military’s most infamous acronyms: privately owned vehicle. Normal folks just call it a car. Only available for people PCS-ing OCONUS to have their vehicle shipped to them or stored until they return to CONUS.
Non-Temporary Storage (NTS)
For those who prefer to store some/most/all of your stuff rather than take it with you for an OCONUS PCS. Rather than lug or ship a favorite couch across one ocean or another, put it away until you’re back living in the USA. Also available on select CONUS PCS moves, so check with your local or base personal property office if it sounds like the plan for you.
Obviously, the nuts and bolts of your move are going to be specific to you and your family. And far more complicated than we could possibly hope to cover in a few hundred words. But this should give you a good start when preparing for your next move. The readier you are, the easier your next change of station, temporary or permanent, will go.
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