The Art of Moving (Military Style)

As most people know the military moves people around fairly often. Most people I know move about every 2 or 3 years, but I have met some that have stayed at the same base for nearly 10 years. (This has to do with how you select preferences for your next job, as well as other factors: such as asking to stay for stability for children, or if a family member has special needs or medical treatments that are more available at certain posts. But that is a post for another day and for someone more knowledgeable on that aspect.)

That being said, we’ve moved twice, one was to a temporary location, I will explain that in a bit. But it’s a part of military life that I can say I love and hate all at the same time.

Don’t worry, I only had to ride like this for about 15 minutes!

Let me start out by saying that most of the terms and my own experience is Army. I have relatives in the Air Force so am a bit familiar with their life, but by no means an expert. So if you know a bit more, please share with me! My philosophy as I’ve gone into this journey is to learn as much as I can from as many people as I can, information can empower you, and help with the future. So that’s my disclaimer-let’s keep going!

A move is typically a Permanent Change of Station (PCS). This is when the service member receives orders to go to a new unit at a different duty station. (See my glossary on the tab above.) When it’s a PCS you have a couple of options:

  • The Army moves you–my preferred method. You are given a weight allowance for your personal items but they pack your stuff, move it, and deliver. They will also unpack and take the boxes if you ask, just won’t put things away. Make sure to separate what you will need when you get there/can’t live without, because your stuff will most likely arrive to your destination after you do. Get ready for some nights on an air mattress.
  • Partial DITY (do it yourself) move–if you do above you’ll probably also do this. The Army doesn’t move everything for you, like liquids, flammable things, etc. You will also want and need clothes, uniforms, basic food stuffs, a few pots and pans, etc. (see note above on stuff coming late). And if I had kids I’d probably pack their favorite toys in the car. You get paid per pound that you move and gas, lodging, and food at per diem rates.
  • Full DITY move–you move all your stuff. You are reimbursed for mileage, etc. (see above) so I know people that make money off of this.

So it’s up to you on what you feel like doing, or what’s necessary. Or what you’re comfortable with. Some friends and I discussed what we’d do if we were hoarders: full DITY move for sure.

Temporary duty: so this is typically for training. For instance, your initial training as a Soldier or Officer is usually short-term and is classified as temporary duty, or TDY. If this is the case then you may not pick up the whole family and move, and if you want to it is often on your own dime. The reason why we both moved to my husband’s temporary station was it was right after we got married, he could live off-post/not in barracks, and it was a 4 month training, so a decent amount of time.

It worked for us this time, but that might not always be the case. Sometimes families stay behind when the service member is in school, particularly if it’s short or would mean moving their kids to multiple schools in short periods of time.

So our moves went like this: full DITY to  Fort Huachuca, AZ for training, which was done by my fabulous in-laws so we could go on a proper honeymoon. Then, Army movers + partial DITY to Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington. I freaking loved the movers because I hate packing. (Also, we definitely made our road trip to WA a bit of a vacation with time in Sonoma and driving up the 1 through California. Adds some fun to it all!)

For our AZ move we did some looking before arriving, I’m from AZ so a trip home + road trip to the base was our spring break and easy to plan. It helped to see a few places, figure out what we liked/wanted/etc. Prior to WA I just did internet searches. I like the place we’re at but we moved up around Thanksgiving and just wanted a place fast so we moved into the first one we saw. We also didn’t really know the area, so some places that we thought were further away really weren’t. I like our location great for grad school and getting places since we’re close to a freeway but we have friends that live on the other side of base (JBLM is HUGE) so that’s probably the most annoying part, and honestly hard to predict if you’re pretty new to the Army/don’t know people at your new duty station. Next move I would like to try to do a quick trip just to look around, even if it’s just me.

So that’s a bit of a lengthy moving story. But some basics. My approach to moving is definitely enjoy the drive to wherever you’re going, our plan for a cross-country move will include stopping at many of the cheesy “Largest _______ in the World/Country” along the way. The house search is the hardest part. If you want to live on-post/base there may be waiting lists, you can find that out ahead of time and get on the list early. (As I type this I can see that I should discuss the pros/cons of living on and off base, so look for that!)

What are your moving tips and experiences? Anyone have some favorite sites for finding homes, apartments when they are looking to move?

3 responses to “The Art of Moving (Military Style)

  1. How long have you been at JBLM? We’re going on 2 years! If you have any questions, I’d be happy to try to answer them. We’re big fans of AHRN and militarybyowner–and in case you haven’t figured it out yet, the housing office is a hot mess.

    • We’ve been here about a year! Rented a great place in Puyallup but I will remember those if we decide to me. Thanks for the help!

      • We have friends who live on South Hill. It seems like a bear of a commute, but they say it isn’t that bad through the East Gate. If you haven’t joined already, the Army Offcers’ Wives page and Fort Lewis Army Officers’ Wives page on Facebook also have housing listings on them (they are usually other wives listing their own properties).

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