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You finally know your way around; the whole family is settled into your awesome community and then it happens: orders come, it’s time to PCS. Spring doesn’t just bring the flowers and sunshine, it brings the paperwork that tells you where your new life will be. Take a deep breath, put on your favorite music, and pour yourself a cup of strong coffee – you’ve got this.

A PCS, or Permanent Change of Station, is the military’s way of saying that it’s time to pack up and move somewhere else on the globe. Typical orders come in the late winter or early spring, leaving families around three to four months to research their new duty station, figure out housing, schools, employment, and start a new life. This time of year can either make you want to crawl into the fetal position and stay there – or it fuels your free spirit with the fire and excitement at the prospect of a new adventure. Choose the joy of adventure, you won’t regret it! Here are my steps to an epic-amazing-awesome PCS season:

Research all the things

The internet is going to be your new best friend. Armed with your new zip code, hit the computer and do some digging. Start by reaching out on social media, see if there is a group for your new base, station, or boat. Talk to your new friends and get all the details on your new home, their insight will give you the best idea of where you want to settle. Once in a blue moon, you may be able to travel to your new home before moving but that isn’t the typical experience. I once purchased a home after a Coast Guard spouse friend did the walk through via FaceTime for us – true story.

Once you’ve settled on the area, research the schools and employment options – narrowing your search even more. Once you’ve drawn your circle on the map, it’s time to get to work.

There’s no place like home

You’ve done all the research, now it’s time to decide on where you’re going to live. This typically means you are considering living in on-base housing, renting, or purchasing a home. Weigh all your options and choose one that is the best fit for you and your family. You may know that in some areas, base-housing is mandatory, so you might want to look into this. If it is a requirement, you may be able to get a waiver to live off base.

  • Base housing comes with pros and cons. You’ll have the easiest PCS ever (hopefully). Your house is set, school district for the kiddos determined, and most bills will be set up and handled easily with a deduction of your service member’s BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing). You’ll also have an amazing built-in community wrapping their arms around you and becoming your new family. Full disclosure: your options for painting and arranging your new home will be limited. There may also be times you feel like you are in a fish bowl. Weigh your options and decide what works for you and your family.
  • Renting is a choice that many military families make. In my eight PCS moves, we’ve rented a home four times. This could provide your military family with a stronger sense of control. The challenge can be finding rentals within your BAH in high cost areas – this is where base housing has been our number one choice. It can also be difficult to find homes willing to rent to you if you have animals, reducing the options – in some cases, a lot. Look into options that allow you to rent from another military family which can make the whole experience so much smoother – they’re usually the best landlords ever because they know exactly how it is. Check out AHRN; these are vetted and trusted housing options. The site allows you to search easily around your new duty station for something within your price range. Military By Owner is another great resource.
  • Purchasing a home can be an amazing choice if you are financially able to carry a mortgage and the responsibilities that come along with being a homeowner. This option gives you full control over your housing, including the chance to decorate to your taste, and/or bring along your zoo. Caliber Home Loans has an incredible military lending department. Many of them are veterans, reservists, or military spouses themselves – they know how to read the LES and completely understand your life.

Plant your roots

It may be a cliché saying but when we plant ourselves, we really do bloom. Do the year of the “yes”. Every time someone invites you to do something, say yes! See a new tourist activity happening in your new hometown? Say yes to all of the things! The best piece of advice that I was ever given is to get involved. When I advise new spouses, I always say this and there’s a reason for it. If you are putting yourself out there for friendships, fun, and adventure – the PCS season won’t bring you the blues, but the butterflies of knowing your new adventure is just waiting for you.

Ask for help when you need it

If you are having a hard time adjusting – reach out! Contact your Ombudsman, Key Spouse, AFRC, or FRG. There are people literally waiting to be there for you. Military One Source also has counselors 24/7 just waiting to work through anything weighing on your mind. It’s free, confidential, and one of the best things you can do for yourself. They’ll even do video appointments, making it super convenient. I highly encourage this even before you PCS if you find yourself on edge! You’ll be working through goodbyes, starting new things, and it can be overwhelming. Help is waiting for you. I have personally utilized counselors, multiple times. Yeah, you read that right! There is absolutely zero shame in saying you are struggling, we’ve all been there.

Don’t let social media fool you. Behind every cute PCS announcement on social media is a military spouse with a messy house, piled up paperwork, and a little dread. This life is beautiful – but it’s also hard. By utilizing all the resources available to you, your move can be amazing. Happy PCS season, y’all!