The 3 Biggest PCS Mistakes, According to a Military Move Expert

Tape sits on a moving box.
(Stock image/Adobe)

Every Permanent Change of Station, or PCS, move comes with its own challenges. But navigating the official military move systems the Defense Department administers through U.S. Transportation Command, or TRANSCOM, doesn't have to seem impossible, said one military move expert -- as long as you don't make one of these three huge mistakes.

Matt Butler retired from the Air Force after specializing in helping military members and families move their personal property from duty station to duty station. Now, he works as a DoD civilian at TRANSCOM, which is responsible for overseeing the military move process.

Listen now: DoD Moving Officials Answer Your Biggest PCS Questions (with Matt Butler)

In an episode of the PCS with podcast, he shared the three biggest PCS mistakes he sees.

Mistake: Waiting to turn in your orders. Receiving official orders to your next duty station is an exciting moment. But before you start sorting through the garage or post that cute announcement on social media, you have one critical task that cannot wait: taking your orders to the military transportation office.

Turning those orders in triggers the military move process, including scheduling your packers and contracting someone to relocate your belongings, Butler said. But too many military members wait until the last minute to take that step, creating a backlog and potentially delaying their move.

"In my time, I've seen a lot of customers that will come in, maybe a week or two [before] with their orders, and try to make a move," he said. "When you wait to the last minute, especially in the summertime, more than likely you're not going to get the dates that you want to have. ... You want to make sure as soon as you get those orders, you go into your transportation office, so that they can process your shipment. [It] is very important."

Mistake: Failing to prepare your home. Just how much stuff the military will pay to have moved to a new location is based on Defense Department regulations that factor in the service member's rank and whether he or she has dependents. Go over your weight allotment? You'll be required to pay for it out of pocket.

That means getting rid of excess clutter before your packers arrive can help make sure your home is ready to move in a way that meets what you actually want and need.

"If you exceed your Joint Travel Regulation weight entitlement, then you will have to owe the government for that," Butler said.

Making sure your home is prepared for your move also will ensure that you avoid packing accidents -- like moving a trash can full of garbage.

"Just making sure that it's clean, that it is organized, so the movers can get in there, do what they need to do, pack it up and get out of there," he said. "If you have trash in there, it's going to be a bad situation when you receive it."

Mistake: Forgetting to separate out the items you need to keep with you. Every military move comes with a pile of things you want left off the moving truck, such as your binder of important documents, an air mattress or two, or your coffee maker. But if you don't place those things in a clearly marked area, they could be packed into your shipment accidentally, Butler warned.

"It's very important that you have things that you do not want moved separated from the things that you do want moved," he said. "It's a big hassle ... and it can cost money as well if you're trying to get that taken out of a shipment. So it is very important just to have that separated."

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