Story by Cameron Porter
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany – Permanent change of duty station moves can be stressful. In Europe, the transportation offices are assigned to the 405th Army Field Support Brigade’s Logistics Readiness Centers and aligned with each Army Garrison across Germany, Italy and the Benelux. They know how stressful the PCS process can be and stand ready to fully assist Soldiers and Families with managing their household goods shipments, unaccompanied baggage and other transportation needs.
Nicole Vatcher, a transportation specialist with LRC Wiesbaden, 405th AFSB, said two important elements to assist Soldiers and Families and help to ensure a successful PCS are knowledge and decisive action.
“This summer wasn’t a classic peak season summer for us,” Vatcher said, “so on our end we aren’t experiencing hardly any difficulties – inbound or outbound – and we are very pleased about that. But it’s still very important to always stay informed and act fast.”
“As soon as you have your orders, come to transportation as quickly as possible,” said Jeffrey Morrison, a transportation specialist with LRC Rheinland-Pfalz, 405th AFSB. “We are taking walk-ins, and they can either come to Kleber Kaserne to the in and out processing building, or they come to the transportation office at Daenner Kaserne.”
It’s unclear how much longer Soldiers and Families will experience any sort of difficulties with arranging HHGs movements in the United States and at other locations, according to Vatcher, but it’s important that Soldiers and Families are well prepared and they expect in advance the possibility of late delivery times.
Immediately upon arrival at the new duty station, Soldiers should sign up for and take advantage of Army Community Service’s lending closet and the installation loaner furniture program, when available, said Vatcher.
These services are available for incoming Soldiers and Families at many installations and garrisons here in Europe and offered at other locations as well, especially overseas. Soldiers and Families should contact ACS and their local housing office for more information and to check availability.
In addition, the Army recently announced that it is widening its PCS reporting window, which will assist Soldiers and Families who are PCSing this summer. Soldiers scheduled to report to a new assignment now through Sept. 30 can check in to their new duty station up to 30 days before their scheduled report date and as much as 20 days after their report date.
“Prior to making your flight arrangements through SATO travel, make sure you have your household goods pickup appointment booked. You have to allow adequate time to clear the installation,” said Morrison.
Increasing the PCS reporting window will help Soldiers and Families better plan for and schedule their HHGs appointment and allow them enough time to properly clear their unit and installation before departing, Morrison said.
Previously, Soldiers had to file a request through their chain of command to HRC, a process that took up to 60 days for approval. Now, Soldiers can receive an extension authorization locally through their chain of command within a few days.
Jon Finke, the chief of Army Human Resources Command’s Operations Management Division, said Soldiers will sometimes request a shipment date only to learn they will have to wait an extra month for an available moving company.
“You’re kind of at the mercy of the moving system,” Finke said. “And the Army is realizing that and trying to work with Soldiers and Families so that they can move, but we have to honor what the transportation companies can do and how they can support us at the same time.”
“We know this year is more challenging than usual, and we are working to give our Soldiers and Families options, resources and flexibility to reduce as much stress as possible,” said Gen. Edward Daly, the commander of U.S. Army Materiel Command.
Colonel Brad Bane, the commander of the 405th AFSB, said that each Garrison and LRC in the U.S. Army Europe and Africa footprint has the right people in place to ensure our Soldiers and Families are well taken care of, and the additional measures emplaced by AMC and the Army will help even more.
If anything out of the ordinary occurs or the inkling of a problem arises, Soldiers and Families should immediately contact the Soldier’s chain of command and reach out to their local transportation office.
They can also use the new chat function in the Army’s PCS Move app to speak with a live transportation specialist to address unique challenges that come up during the PCS process. Soldiers can download the app – which has information on entitlements, types of moves, planning, scheduling and claims – in the Google Play and Apple App stores. More information can be found at https://move.mil/customer-service. Soldiers can also call a 24-hour hotline for questions on PCS moves at 833-MIL-MOVE.
No matter what the circumstance, when it comes to a HHG move, Morrison recommends that Soldiers always reach out to their local transportation office and speak to a trained representative. They are there to help.
Steps to take:
• Visit the installation transportation office as soon as orders are received. Don’t wait.
• Whether this is a first move or 15th, take advantage of counseling. The local transportation office is the best resource of information specific to that location.
• If movers cannot be arranged to support the PCS, talk with Soldier’s chain of command immediately to explore options – which may include changes to reporting timelines.
• Be patient with the transportation office personnel. They want to solve problems for you.
• Contact the local transportation office if moving plans change or when questions or concerns arise during the PCS process.
Again, as soon as Soldiers receive PCS orders, they should go to their local transportation office for assistance, said Morrison. The website https://dps.move.mil/cust can help with getting started and scheduling their next PCS moves. But remember, always check with or call the local transportation office to ensure everything is on point and good to go.