Tag Archives: PCS

The Pros and Cons of an Overseas Move for the Military Spouse

Sometimes, military families get lucky and are assigned overseas – Europe or Asia. We weren’t that lucky, although Alaska and Hawaii count as overseas assignments. Moving abroad has pros and cons.

Arrangements for the Permanent Change of Station (PCS) usually take longer because you are moving across an ocean in most cases. First, you might be limited in what you can pack since housing sizes vary. Then, most moves require two shipments – hold baggage, which are the items you might need right away to set up house, and the second shipment of furniture. I know several people who received the second shipment first or both at the same time, so hold baggage doesn’t necessarily matter. Also, make sure to have several adapters since the electrical currents are not the same in Europe or Asia. Otherwise, you will have a house full of unusable electronics.

Moving abroad has many benefits for a family. Learning new cultural customs and meeting people from different lands is exciting. Imagine your children going to school in a small Italian town and immersing in the culture. And the history they will learn that is much older than the history of the United States. Our son-in-law, Staff Sergeant, lived in Europe during his formative years. He traveled an hour each way and crossed three borders to get to the International School he attended. And his son, Tony B., went to kindergarten and first grade at the same elementary school in England. How cool is that?

Of course, a big con to an overseas assignment is the distance from family. Tony B. was born in England the day the Good Chaplain reported to our base in Hawaii. I flew from Illinois to England, and four weeks later, I flew from England to Hawaii. Yikes! And the Good Chaplain didn’t get to meet his first grandchild until six months later.

Also, what we consider modern and state-of-the-art in the U.S. isn’t always the same in other countries. For instance, in England, Mrs. Staff Sergeant needed to get used to smaller appliances, and her oven temperature measured in Celcius instead of Fahrenheit. Due to the size and operation of the washer and dryer, it took about five hours to do a load of laundry. With a household of active males, laundry was always running at her house.

The book, “A Practical Handbook for the Air Force Chaplain Spouse,” much of which applies to all military spouses, lists three adjustments to moving overseas.

  • Changes in climates and environments
  • Living in houses of all sizes, styles, and descriptions
  • Living in a variety of communities – small towns, big cities – where we are foreigners

Language is a significant barrier to moving to a foreign country. Even in Hawaii and Alaska, we needed to learn some local idioms and dialects to get along. I found through travel that locals appreciate it if you at least try to speak the basics of the language. I believe that after living in a community, you can’t help but pick up the native language.

Many of my friends who lived overseas lived in the community rather than on base. Some bases don’t have housing available, but choosing to live in a small town, helps get the feel of the culture and customs of an area. You most likely will feel awkward and out of place for a time until you adjust to your new surroundings and make friends with your civilian neighbors, but the experience of doing so can be incredible.

Creating personal relationships with your civilian neighbors, learning the language, shopping in the local community, and getting involved in local activities will go a long way to fitting in abroad.

Until next time,

Vicki

What was your biggest challenge moving overseas? Respond in the comments section below.

Moving Time: Some Things for Military Spouses to Consider

It’s that time of year again when military families all over the world are moving, what we call a PCS or permanent change of station. Many moves were delayed this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it appears that they are picking up steam now. After 18 moves in 35 years of marriage, I’m glad I am not one of those people packing up and moving on.

As much as I disliked the physical act of moving, a new place and seeing what God had in mind, always excited me. I wondered about our new house, our new neighbors and our new base and town. I was up for the adventure.

Only once was I upset about our house. When we moved to Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, I cried. Our house was 900 square feet. My furniture would not fit in the living/dining room combo. And after unpacking boxes in the one set of kitchen cabinets, when I turned the corner into the dining room and found more cartons labeled kitchen, I lost it. I just sat down and cried.

But that was the worst house. I had the opposite problem in Mississippi, where the house was so large that I had to buy more furniture. It all works out in the end.

We started the Good Chaplain’s career moving every three years, but it soon morphed into every two years as he gained rank and responsibility. Most times, we lived on base, except for Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, and Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. Sometimes we got the choice of two or three houses, but other times we were assigned a house. Except for Minot, the houses were at least adequate.

Before moving time arrives, military members and their families are asked to fill out a ”dream sheet.” This is the place to list the sites you dream about moving to. Or, as I say, the paper the powers-that-be look at and laugh about before they assign you to the base they were going to send you anyway.

Ironically, Minot is the only base we put down as the first choice that we got. The rest of the time, we selected Europe and got Alaska. Or the Good Chaplain would write we would go where God and the Air Force sent us.

Deciding what base to request depends on several factors, including the impact on your family. First, a job in the military member’s career field needs to be available. If you have school-age children, you need to take into consideration the nearby school districts. And that decision leads to whether you are going to live on base or not. It’s a lot to think about. Then, once your choices are made, the military has to agree with you.

The last decision to make is whether or not to have the military assign a moving company to pack up and move your household goods. You can choose to move everything yourself, move some of your stuff yourself, or let the movers move everything. No matter how I begged the Good Chaplain just to let the movers take everything, we ended up hauling some things ourselves. I didn’t want the stress of packing and moving myself, and he wanted to protect our valuables from any damage from the movers. Sometimes it felt like we moved the majority of the house.

Always look at all your options as it comes time to move and decide what is best for your family. Once you have orders, be sure to check out the website of the base you are moving to. You can gather quite a bit of information that way, including about the base housing, schools, and the nearby community. Also, ask friends and neighbors about that base for the real scoop on the base.

Until next time,

Vicki