PCS – The most stressful 3 letters in the military alphabet.

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What is a PCS? A PCS is one of the most dreaded acronyms within the military culture. PCS is short for ‘Permanent Change of Station’. In layman’s terms, Moving.

My husband grew up in Connecticut, he loves Connecticut. Everything about it. I know, weird. He joined the Navy right after high school and after a short time at boot camp he ended up back in Connecticut at the Submarine Base. It was there that we met and where he spent the first 10 years of his navy career.  Now, you’re probably asking yourself, why Connecticut? Yeah, I have no idea. In a perfect world he’d live in Connecticut for his whole life and his Homeport of choice would be New London Submarine Base where he’d raise a family and live in beautiful New England for the rest of his life. But life with the Navy is not that easy. My husband got very lucky being able to stay at one single Duty Station for so long, but in 2013 it finally happened. We experienced our very first PCS move. And it was a big one. We were relocated to Sunny San Diego!  Most people would be so happy to get to live in such a lovely area. I however, Panicked. I grew up in NY, no not the city, the state. Yes there is an actual New York State, you know, all that land up above the city. I grew up in a very small town in the middle of no where. And California, well California was a place of great legends and stories. It was a completely different world to me. I simply could not fathom the thought of living so far away from everything I knew.

My husband was to report to Point Loma Submarine Base first thing In January 2013 and would soon after deploy for 7 months. We had bought a house in Connecticut in 2010 so we decided that I would stay there while he was deployed and when he came back, that would be when we would pack up and move across the country. Eight very long, very emotional, very hard months later, Deployment was over and our Journey Began.

We had set everything up before my husband left so all I had to do was call the personal property office and schedule the “pack out” date. The Navy pays for your entire move, and because of that, you aren’t allowed to pack anything. The moving companies are responsible for everything. It was very hard for me to allow strangers into my home to pack up my belongings. But, 2 days later and an empty house, we packed up what we needed in the car, including our pups and started our drive from CT to CA.

At this time I thought, “WOW, this was so easy! Everything was taken care of, all I had to do was sit back and worry about someone touching my underwear.”

Our trip across the beautiful USA was magical. We saw things I never thought i’d see. We bonded, we laughed, cried, got lost once or twice but to this day, it was the most memorable trip I have ever had.

So we get to San Diego, I had a hard time adjusting. After all, we weren’t in Connecticut anymore were we Dorothy? We had a lot of great times in San Diego, our daughter was born there, we made wonderful, lifelong friends, but….BUT, we were only there for a year before my husband was promoted to Chief and the dreaded “Chief Redistribution” happened. Our Next PCS…..where?  Hawaii.

Moving from one duty station to another within the CONUS (Continental United States) is easy. However moving to an OCONUS (Outside Continental United States) homeport, not so much. There are special requirements for pets that you want to bring with you to the lovely island of Oahu, or any Hawaiian Island. Hawaii does not have rabies so you have to have a quarantine period and if you don’t complete that quarantine period on the mainland, then the animals have to go to doggie jail, which costs THOUSANDS. But most people would do anything for their pets, after all, they are family. We brought our 2 dogs to the island. But we didn’t have enough notice to do the home quarantine so, you guessed it, doggie jail and thousands of dollars. But I wouldn’t have had it any other way. We love our pups.

Also when you PCS to an ISLAND, it takes your HHG (Household Goods) a very long time to arrive. As well as your car, If you don’t sell it and buy another when you get to the island. It can take, weeks, or MONTHS.

But lets back track a little bit….You may be asking if we acquired a home before we arrived. The answer, No. You see, if you want to live in Military Housing, you cannot be put on the wait list until your husband checks into his new command. So, hotel living it is until we either wait for a house to be available, or look for our own “out in town” rental. Which is what we inevitably did, because while hotels are great for vacationing, living in one gets old after a few days. Especially with a 5 month old. Did I mention that we were on the waitlist for military housing for a year. A WHOLE YEAR. Thank The Lord that we found a rental.

Aloha Furniture. When moving OCONUS one benefit the military offers you is free rental furniture. Because like I said before, it could take MONTHS for you HHG to arrive. Aloha Furniture is exactly like it sounds, the bamboo framed, Hawaiian print couches and chairs that you’d envision being in a 70’s hotel room.

Then, your HHG arrive. And you spend days, sometimes weeks, if you’re like me, MONTHS unpacking and making your temporary house a “home”.  And then, 3-4 years later you’ll be assigned a new duty station and the cycle repeats itself. Yes, some get lucky enough to obtain new orders at the same duty station they are currently assigned at. But for us, Moving 3 times in 3 years is a little crazy, even for the military. And you never know when you unpack, what you’ll find that is broken, or lost, there is a whole facebook page for “Lost during my PCS”. On two of our moves we acquired items that were not ours. We never found the owners.

Now, imagine having to do all of that while your husband is deployed. I have yet to experience that. Thank you Lord, and when and if that ever happens, It’ll be chaos. I just know it.

What I’m taking away from this, and what you should too, is that no matter how stressful a move can be, you’re always going to have family and friends who have been there, done that and/or are there to help you. I.E. I am currently staying at my moms with our daughter, while my husband does a homeport change for his boat, rendering us homeless, more or less. Thank God for family. I never thought at 33 years old, i’d Be back living with my mom. Thank you mom. You’re a lifesaver.

I also need to remind myself that this crazy military life is also very rewarding. I thank God every day for the sacrifices my Husband makes for his family and his country. Being a  mil-spouse is not easy and being in the military is not easy, and I know that I would never be able to do this if I didn’t have that amazing man standing by my side. The love and support he shows for us is immeasurable.

So when you PCS, or are moving, remember to breath. Take a look at each other and be grateful you’re in it together in this amazing adventure known as LIFE. Cherish the smallest of moments, and don’t dwell on all the stressors. You have each other, you have family and you will get through this.

Or just sell everything you own and start over at every duty station. Lol.

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