By Rebecca Alwine
Yay, you’ve gotten orders! Before you rush off to the transportation office to arrange for the moving company, take a few minutes and read the orders. Every word. Twice. Make a copy. Highlight the parts that are important to you, as a spouse, and then make sure you understand them. As usual, my first piece of advice is to ask questions about anything you don’t understand. And I don’t mean ask your friends on Facebook; I mean ask someone with intimate knowledge of orders.
When do we have to be there? This is really important. This is the absolute last date your spouse must sign into the unit. No exceptions. Sometimes, this date is more than six months away and sometimes it is very close. This is usually one of the first things on the orders, after the location, of course. Keep in mind, when reporting overseas it may say you cannot report on the weekend.
Of course later on down the line of items, it may say “Early report is authorized.” That is a nice thing when you’re up against school start dates or you just want to PCS earlier. The amount of days you can report in advance should also be listed.
The next section is Additional Information and can be quite lengthy. Some of these are yes or no answers, some are detailed, and some are pretty self-explanatory. You can probably ignore the ones that talk about passing a physical training test, submitting evaluations, and physical examinations, since that’s for your active duty spouse.
Can you go with your spouse? This is a simple yes or no. Sometimes the orders come with a no and can be changed to a yes when command sponsorship is secured. You may also see something that talks about concurrent travel. This is usually on overseas orders and indicates that your dependents are permitted to travel at the same time as the active spouse. Again, overseas orders can start out with non-concurrent travel and be changed to concurrent after all the proper screenings and paperwork are submitted.
What you can ship? This section may be as general as stating that you can ship things at the government’s expense or it may be detailed as to how many bags you can take if flying somewhere and the measurements of those bags. When travelling overseas, there should be an item that allows you to ship unaccompanied baggage– sometimes called “hold baggage”– which is a small, quick shipment of the essentials. You should also find a place that indicates if you can ship a privately owned vehicle.
Can we take the dog? While the military is not going to pay for you to take your pets, they may specifically mention pets in the orders. The wording is lengthy, but the bottom line is to be aware of the breed restrictions for installation housing. If travelling overseas, the information about quarantine and vaccinations are also included.
Can you drive there? Orders will have lots of detailed information about where you must purchase plane tickets if you select commercial travel or if you are authorized “but not directed” to travel by privately owned vehicle. It may even state that use of more than one POV is authorized, which means if you’re a two-car family, you can both drive there and claim the mileage.
Do we have to live on post? Usually there is no requirement to live on post when staying within the country. But, the orders can specify who you need to see before leaving your current duty station. (For example, “you must report to family housing within 5 days of receipt of these orders” to terminate your current lease.) The orders will also say that you have to report to family housing when arriving at the next place before making arrangements for any off-post housing. Our orders to Germany many years ago actually said we were approved for one-bedroom government housing. Quite detailed.
In a perfect world, our spouses would come home with orders and a reassuring, “I’ve already taken care of everything else.” But since the military is hardly ever considerate of other things we have going on, orders can come as a shock and throw us into a tizzy. After getting answers to all of your questions, start making a plan of what you need to do first. Check out the Military One Click PCS Checklists for overseas and CONUS moves for advice.