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The Most important Tips for Overseas Moves with the Military

Updated: 1 day ago

Note: I wrote three posts with tips on moving for military couples, see the other posts here: DITY moves versus Military-Contracted Movers and Childcare Help Provided by the Military when Moving.


For the spouse and any children to go with the service member, you have to make sure the service member’s orders name the family to relocate with your spouse. Some overseas tours allow spouses and are “Command Sponsored” while others are an “Unaccompanied Tour.” When we were in South Korea, many spouses came without command sponsorship and seemed to enjoy it, but keep in mind that when you are not sponsored you:

·      Will not receive compensation from the military for housing that will accommodate you and your spouse (or get approval to live out of the dorms)

·      May not be eligible to use the military medical or dental services

·      Will have to pay to get yourself and your HHG to the location

·      Your spouse will not be receiving additional money for the COLA (cost of living) overseas housing allowance (OHA) for living off the installation

·      May not be eligible to use the base or post Exchange or commissary

 

Since there are so many peculiarities about living in a foreign country, ask for a sponsor.  You may have to ask your spouse to apply for a sponsor through the armed services online request system.  You will come up with lots of questions you can ask your sponsor that are unique to the location such as:

1.     Will my king size bed and large furniture fit in the housing on or off base?

2.     Are there childcare options on base?

3.     What type of things does the commissary not stock that I think I’ll not be able to live without?

4.     What is the local culture like?

5.     Which items can be loaned from the Family Support Center for us to use while we are awaiting our HHG or unaccompanied bag shipments (see below)?

 

Key information you need to know about what you can take overseas:

 

DIFFERENT TYPES OF SHIPMENTS WHEN GOING OVERSEAS:

 

When PCSing overseas, you’ll have three separate household goods (HHG) shipments: non-temporary storage, unaccompanied baggage, and regular HHG. It can be helpful to schedule these pack-outs (if using military contracted movers) for different days to avoid confusion.  If you plan them for the same day, make sure you separate the items into different rooms to avoid a mix-up.  You don’t want to arrive at your out of the continental United States (OCONUS) location only to find out the wrong stuff was packed in your shipment.



Non-temporary storage will be for anything you don’t take with you overseas.  You’ll probably need to leave boats and campers at home, as well as large furniture and possibly your washer and dryer and other large appliances. We found that the housing overseas was smaller with less storage, so we left about 1/2 of our HHG in non-temporary storage.  It’s important to note that this storage is not temperature controlled and you do not have the option to retrieve anything from storage during the entire time you are stationed overseas. And, if you accept back-to-back overseas orders, it could be a really long time before you see that stuff again. 

 


Unaccompanied baggage is a few hundred pounds that you are authorized to ship in a faster shipment.  You’ll want to pack anything you will need right away that fits within your weight limit (usually determined based upon rank).  Your spouse will need uniforms and I suggest taking sheets and toys or baby items for the any children that may be going with you.  You may want to bring some basic kitchen items. Some overseas installations have great lending closets with kitchen items, baby items, and other necessities available for you to loan while you await your unaccompanied baggage or household goods.  Be sure to check out what is available at your particular installation and plan accordingly.  This shipment should arrive within a few weeks of your shipment.

 


Household Goods is everything else you plan to ship with you overseas. How much you are allowed to bring is dependent upon your spouse’s rank. Keep in mind that storage units and closets are not as abundant in foreign countries, so ask your sponsor or other friends for insider intel on your country before deciding what you will ship.  Typically, it will take 6-8 weeks for this shipment to get to your destination.

 

In addition to your HHG shipments, you’ll also have a Privately Owned Vehicle (POV) shipment. Typically, the armed forces will only ship one vehicle per family.  Don’t worry, you can either manage with one vehicle or there are used cars readily available around the base that you can purchase for a year or two and then resell before heading back state-side. Your vehicle that is shipped will have to get to a Port Vehicle Processing Center (VPC).  There are 10 locations in the United States.  Your military installations will have guidance on which VPC you are authorized to use.  Plan well, it will also take several weeks, to a few months for your POV to arrive at the OCONUS location.


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