It's not every day you get to sit down with the PCS experts and ask them every question you can think up. But that's exactly what I got to do recently when I took a little field trip to Scott Air Force Base, home of the military's Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC), the Big Bosses of everything U.S. military-move.
I spent several hours checking out SDDC's offices and chatting with their public affairs team and top officials who oversee military moves. Here's what I learned:
6 Things the Military's PCS Bosses Taught Me1. PCS bosses know what matters to military families. During my visit I sat down with Col. Jordan Chroman, chief of staff for SDDC, and chatted for a few minutes about the tricky parts of military moves and what's important to the folks they are serving. Chroman said they know that military families are worried about the movers "wrapping up grandmother's china" carelessly -- and they are working hard to make sure every move is finished smoothly, with as little stress as possible.
2. PCS bosses do actually care about you. It may seem like you're just a very small drop in the giant PCS bucket and that the PCS bosses don't care at all, but that's not what they say is going on. While big picture policies are, well, big, the entire military moving process is designed to make sure we all finish out our moves with as little stress as possible. They know that systems, like the one used to file claims, are cumbersome and exhausting. They say they're working hard to make those things smoother.
3. You can make a difference. The Move.mil mover assignment system is designed around the idea that customer feedback (that's you) can help make sure bad packers and movers don't get jobs from the military again. But to make that happen they need you to take that obnoxious customer satisfaction survey at the end of the process. Because it really, really makes a difference. If you give someone a bad rating, that is weighted heavily in the way the military chooses to assign them jobs in the future -- or even a call to block them entirely. You can read more about that survey here.
4. Things change. Even Lt. Col. Todd Jensen who oversees the personal property office for SDDC, said he was surprised by how much moving rules can change between moves. While there are standards and rules issued by the military for moves, every military mover approaches it a little differently. For example, Jensen said typically movers won't ship alcohol, so he made sure they didn't have any before his family's PCS to Scott Air Force Base. When the movers arrived, however, they said they would've packed it after all. The lesson here? Always ask your movers for their rules and always be ready for changes.
5. Many of the rules depend on your service. There are general PCS rules, regulations and guidelines issued by big-military. And then there are the specifics determined by your service. The result? Complication city. Much of what you experience as part of a PCS is based on those service-specific rules or "entitlements." Weight allowance? Entitlement. Pro-gear rules? Entitlement. ETS move allowances? Entitlement. Officials at SDDC know that if everything was consistent, well, life would be easier. Maybe we could all convince the services to have a UN-style meeting where they come to a unified decision on this stuff. No?
6. Communication is key. We all hope for a smooth move -- including the people who run the military's personal property office. Jensen said the key to accomplishing that could be working closely with your local transportation office, communicating clearly with your moving team and making sure you are keeping track of your box inventory as your goods are delivered, so you can know if something is missing right away. There are a lot of tools available to help you make sure your move is good, you just have to use them.