Most people getting ready for a cross-country move go see where they are going before they get there. But that isn’t an option for many military members during a Permanent Change of Station (PCS). Instead, service members and their families often must relocate sight unseen, never even visiting their new home before they must settle in.
Kellie Artis knows all about those problems both from firsthand experience as an Army spouse and as the brains behind Millie, a company that pairs local assistants with military families to help with tasks like house-hunting at their new base. Artis has become an expert in how military families can learn about and prepare for their new homes before leaving their old ones. Here are three of her tips.
Get creative with your research. Social media has made researching an upcoming duty station incredibly easy, Artis said. Most families are familiar with the Facebook-based location or spouses groups that provide an easy way to ask questions about any given military base worldwide.
But there are other ways to see what a location has to offer and get excited about moving there, she said.
“A fun little tip that I give for research is Instagram,” she said. “Look up some prominent Instagramers from those areas. I think about influencers who are going out and eating food and taking photos of their dessert or, you know, going on hikes. So you're starting to kind of get visually immersed in the area before you get there. It kind of gives you a behind-the-scenes look at how the locals live.”
“There’s maps and photos that military spouses that live there took,” she said. “There's all kinds of really relevant perspectives that you can get, and then take that from there and then start diving down.”
Take social media feedback with a grain of salt. While the information shared in those base-specific Facebook groups can be really useful, it also can be overwhelmingly negative, Artis warned.
“I'm going to throw a big, huge caution out there. A lot of the time, the only thing you hear about a duty station are the negative things, because those folks are the ones that have just not enjoyed their time,” she said. “So be really careful and kind of read between the lines of what people say. Especially if they're saying it loudly in some of the groups.”
Ask for help. Military families are strong and capable, Artis said, but no one gets extra points for proving it during a move. When in doubt, reach out to friends who currently are living in the area, and ask for help with tasks and information. Don’t know anyone? Millie’s team of local scouts are happy to help answer any questions or can be hired to do those local tasks, Artis said.
“You can message them and just be like, ‘Hey, I'm moving there. What's it like?’” she said. “They love these conversations, and they're happy to help. If you get to a point where you need to hire them, you have someone that you've already made a relationship or connection with.”
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