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Military Moves 101 — Your Service Member’s First PCS

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Pinning Down PCS Success

Looking to pin down resources to get ahead of your move? From your local Relocation Assistance Program office to the Plan My Move, Defense Personal Property System and MilitaryINSTALLATIONS tools, you can get answers to questions and take control of your move.

The opportunity to live in different parts of the country — and even the world — is one of the benefits of military service. While your service member may have to manage some of the logistics of a permanent change of station, the Defense Department provides plenty of support, from planning a military move to settling into a new duty station.

Learn how the DOD makes military moves easier on service members and find answers to your questions about the process.

Answers to your questions about moving in the military

If your service member is new to the military, you may have questions about where their career will take them — and how often.

  • Will my service member move often? Your service member will be assigned to their first duty station after completing basic and advanced training. On average, service members receive permanent change of station orders every two to four years.
  • Does my service member have a say in where they will go? Your service member may be able to rank their preferences, but in the end, they will be assigned to the duty station where they are needed most.
  • Can I visit my service member if they live in barracks or on a ship? Depending on where your service member lives, you may need to stay in a hotel, but you will be able to visit.
  • Will my service member be OK living on their own? Your service member will have plenty of guidance from their command. You can also make yourself available to support your service member and answer their questions as needed.
  • How will my service member find new health care providers? Your service member will likely use the health care system on the installation. They can receive a referral to an outside specialist, if needed.

DOD support for moving

The Defense Department offers a number of services and resources to help with military moves.

  • Military OneSource. The Moving Your Personal Property page features links to information, tips and resources to help your service member through every stage of their move, including links to:
    • The Defense Personal Property System, where your service member can schedule their move, track their shipments or file a claim
    • The Global Household Goods Contract, designed to improve the relocation process
    • Customer service contacts for PCS moves
    • Moving guides, videos, articles, FAQs and more
  • Plan My Move. This online tool helps your service member create customized checklists to organize and manage their PCS.
  • Relocation Assistance Program. Relocation experts at each installation offer pre-departure briefings, newcomer orientations, one-on-one support and more. Encourage your service member to connect with their relocation assistance program when they receive their PCS orders.

Your service member can always contact Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 with questions about their PCS.

Support for special moving situations

Receiving PCS orders can raise questions for service members with special circumstances. Here are some common situations that affect moves, and where to find support for each.

  • Foreign-born spouse. The Relocation Assistance Program is the place to go for help with resources and referrals about immigration and naturalization, as well as translation services and English language programs.
  • Special needs. The DOD’s Exceptional Family Member Program ensures a family’s special medical or educational needs are considered during the assignment process. The EFMP Family Support provider can also connect your service member with needed services at the new location.
  • Emergency financial aid. A move can sometimes stretch already tight finances. Personal financial counseling is available for free to service members. Military relief organizations may also be able to help.
  • The final military move. When your service member transitions out of the military, the government will in most cases pay moving expenses. Find details to help your service member make the final military move a success.

Moving is part of the adventure of being in the military. With DOD services and resources, and support from loved ones like you, your service member will be on their way to new and exciting experiences.

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