Preparing to PCS back to the States

Airplane in the sky
Airplane in the sky

Preparing to PCS back to the States

by Stacy Roman
Stripes Japan

As the flurry of assignment notifications begins to fall from their respective personnel offices, you may soon discover that your time in Pacific (sadly) is coming to a close. If you’ve received word that you’re heading back to the States, it comes with a mixed bag of emotions. You may also be thinking that it’ll be a cinch. After all, there’s no way it’ll be as complicated as it was when you moved overseas, right? Not quite. That complex web of processes and hoops you had to jump through to get to your current assignment will have to be undone while adjusting back to the reality of moving back to the U.S. Here are some gentle reminders and helpful tips to prep you for moving stateside.

Medical clearances. Even if you’re heading to an area with a plethora of military installations (Washington, D.C., for instance), you will still need to go through medical clearances to come back to the States. If you’re enrolled in the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP), you’ll need to coordinate your appointments sooner rather than later. These clearances help determine whether or not your gaining location has the proper facilities to accommodate your needs.

Arranging shipments. As you prepare to leave, figuring out the shipping options comes into play. When you moved overseas, you likely took advantage of the loaner furniture from your traffic management office until your belongings arrived. It’s a bit different when you move back to the U.S. While you can utilize the temporary furnishings on your way out of your current house, you won’t have this luxury in your new residence. Be sure to pack any airbeds, camping chairs or folding tables to help ease the pain while waiting for your goods to arrive. For my family, we’ve found that shipping our household goods first and then the unaccompanied baggage last tends to work out the best. If you put anything into non-temporary storage before you left to come overseas, you will need to figure out when to have the goods released and sent to your next location.

Finding a place to live. One of the primary challenges of returning from overseas is deciding on housing options. If you prefer to live on base, you’ll want to check with your gaining installation to see if there is a waitlist or availability. If you’d rather live off base, you can look online to see what cities are nearby. Joining social media groups to help narrow down your search can help. Just remember that although you may find something perfect, depending on your timeline, it may not be available when you move. If you find something you absolutely love, be sure to see if you can get a video walkthrough or current photos of the property. Renting or purchasing sight unseen can lead to unmet expectations and being stuck in a lease you probably wouldn’t have signed.

Bringing your fur kids back. If you’re a pet owner, your animals are part of your family. However, the logistics and expense of getting your fur kids back to the U.S. can be just as daunting as when you moved overseas. Although there is no quarantine for them when they land in the States, they’ll still need a health check and be up to date on their vaccines to certify they’re fit to fly. It may be helpful to look into hiring a pet broker or someone who helps organize and handle the logistical chaos of shipping pets overseas.

To ship or not to ship. When you moved across the pond, you may have had a vehicle shipping dilemma. It’s no different when it’s time to head back. The government will pay to have only one vehicle shipped. If you choose to send more than one, the others will be on your dime. Maybe you’ve found a classic British-spec Land Rover Defender you just can’t live without. Before setting up the shipping, make sure it meets the import requirements, as importing non-U.S.-spec vehicles have different rules.

Enjoy the time you have left. The process of moving is stressful, can leave you feeling overwhelmed and just wanting to get it done and over with. However, don’t forget to take advantage of what time you have left overseas. When travel allows, hit your favorite destinations one last time. Stop by your favorite local haunts for a bite or a pint. The time goes by very quickly once the PCS process gets started.  

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