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What Do You Do When Your Movers Can't Get on Base?

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Dear Q&B,

We're in the middle of a PCS to a new duty station. We live on a base where everyone has to get a background check and a visitor's pass to get on base unless they are escorted on by a military ID card holder.

Well, there I was waiting for my packing team to arrive when they called me to say they couldn't pass the background check and asked if I could come pick them up at a gas station off base and drive them on.

I didn't want to screw up my move, so I went and got them. Now I'm thinking maybe there was a better way to take care of this. What should I have done?

Accidental Packer Shuttle

Dear Shuttle,

We get it -- that panic that sets in as you realize that there's a major problem in what was supposed to be a finely tuned packing and moving system. Worse, you were probably on a tight timeline that you were trying to keep.

When are military moves not on some kind of complicated, important timeline?

Officials with the military's Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC), which oversees military moves, said this isn't the first time they've heard about an issue like yours.

"Base access protocol is an issue that affects virtually all shipments and deliveries -- both HHGs and freight -- to every installation," said Fred Rice, an SDDC spokesman. "SDDC, along with industry, has raised the issue to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, who is responsible for coordinating a solution. Understand, however, that this is a long-standing issue and a one-size-fits-all solution has been difficult to get to."

That's because while the Defense Department has given bases general directions about what sorts of criminal records are allowed on base, they also allow base commanders to kick those rules up a notch.

For example, DoD rules state that as long as someone does not have an active warrant out for their arrest, they can get a visitor pass. But officials at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, have chosen also to block many would-be visitors who have a criminal record, including any applicant with a past felony conviction of any kind. That means that if your mover or packer has ever been convicted on felony drug charges, for example, he won't be permitted on Fort Campbell.

So what does that mean for you? Officials said they understand how frustrating it can be to get a call from your movers saying they can't get on base. They also said while picking them up at the gas station definitely seems like a problem-solving solution, it probably isn't the best idea.

What should you have done? Even at the risk of throwing a wrench in your moving plans, they said, the best decision is to give the transportation company you're working with a call and tell them what is going on. Also, they said, call your base transportation office to make sure they are tracking the issue and can help you get everything squared away again.

A final thought: Since making sure their employees can get to you is part of the job the moving company was contracted by the DoD to do, this would also be a good time to leverage that customer satisfaction survey at the end of your moving process.

SDDC officials use survey results to decide whether to give companies repeat government business. If you're unhappy, or your move was terrible thanks to problems like the one you wrote us about, the survey is the perfect time to make it known.

Team Q&B

-- Do you have a question about your benefits? Email the Questions and Benefits team at

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