The entire US military has existed under a stop movement order since March. It’s placed deployments, homecomings and PCS moves on pause for thousands of troops and their families from coast-to-coast. When we finally can move more normally, what will the post-pandemic PCSing realities look like?
Post-Pandemic PCSing Realities You Need to Plan for Now
As of publication, the military-wide stop movement order has been extended through June 30 by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. This order will be reviewed every 15 days, according to an April 18 Military Times article. The frequent review could potentially result in an early lifting of the order or might extend the order, depending on how the pandemic response and infection rates evolve.
In the meantime, thousands of military families are waiting on word about their summer PCS moves. There are lots of questions, especially about the real-world application of the DOD’s moving guidance document.
Once we’re free to move about the country again, you’re going to want to be fully ready to move ASAP.
When Can I Move?
While most PCS orders are paused, there are some troops who have been and will be granted exemptions, according to military move expert Megan Harless.
“Some of these moves are still happening from either exemptions, such as being mission essential or in a hardship status, or by exception to policy, such as medical or financial hardship,” Harless explained.
Those exemptions include:
- Mid-PCS: service members and their families who have physically left their previous duty station and are en route to the next location
- Troops who are EASing or retiring
- Mission essential
- As a result of extreme hardship
MilitaryOneSource notes that those who are in middle of moves or just about to begin the PCS process, need to remain in close contact with their chain of command and their move coordinator.
Exemptions must be applied for. PCS orders that cannot be followed as originally written will be re-issued with adjusted no later than dates.
“Once the stop move order is lifted, troops will be able to PCS without issue,” Harless explained. “Just to note, each service branch has also implemented their own regulations in regards to PCSing this summer and many have seen their report dates get shifted.”
What Happens When PCSing Starts Again?
If you are moving and are not exempted from the stop movement, it’s important that you stay on top of your PCS orders and the moving process.
“Those who are not moving (right now) are being issued amended orders for later in the year, and some have requested to defer their move until next year,” according to Harless.
Harless recommends that troops also remain in close contact with the Travel Management Office and their move coordinator(s).
“(Move coordinators) are designed to be your single point of contact during your move and give you updates on your assigned dates, weight, delivery, and any issues,” Harless said. “If your move has not started or you cannot get a hold of your move coordinator, you can always call your local transportation office, or the moving hotline for assistance.”
Is it Safe to Drive Cross-Country or Fly?
Right now, Harless is getting reports that many hotels across the country are taking precautionary measures to ensure the safety of their guests.
“Those that have been staying at hotels have said that many of them are very clean and have taken steps to ensure safety for everyone to include boxed breakfasts.”
When staying at a hotel, Harless recommends:
- driving slightly longer each day to cut down on overnight stays
- send one adult into the hotel room to wipe everything down with cleansing wipes
Harless also recommends booking the most direct flight option possible to reduce layovers.
Will This Moving Season Be Busier?
“I think the season is still going to be pretty active this year despite the stop move order and all the change in orders,” Harless predicted. “Industry has noted a drop in the shipments each week compared to last years.”
While things might not be busier right now, there are warning about delays in shipments. This could result in a longer gap between when your HHG are packed and when you receive them in the next location.
“(T)here have been warnings about possible delays in receiving your shipment based on the number of shipments that have gone into storage but not yet delivered during this time frame,” she said.
Harless has noticed that there are more anecdotal reports of families opting for PPM, or DITY, moves as opposed to relying on the military for packing and shipping.
What Can I Do Now to Prep for My Move Later?
Harless is a big advocate of pre-packing, especially this year with PCSing season on pause for much of the military.
She recommends that you:
- purge unwanted items to sell, donate or dispose of
- pre-pack items you are not currently using
- use space saver bags to flat pack soft items, like linens or winter clothes
- ziploc bags for small toys and items you don’t want separated
- totes to organize space saver bags and ziploc bags by type
“Moving companies have said that if families want to start packing things they aren’t using that is fine, just leave the box open so they can verify the contents,” she said. “Don’t worry if you do start packing your items because according to the Claim and Liability Business Rules, anything the moving company takes possession of they are liable for.”
Where Can I Go for Help?
You should remain in contact with your gaining and sending commands to ensure continuity of orders. Your move coordinator is also a good point of contact.
For official DOD guidance, troops and families should reference the PCS FAQ issued via move.mil.
Military service members can also find up to date PCS information at MilitaryOneSource.