by Alexis Miller, Guest Contributor
The world is full of common and widely accepted myths. I mean, an entire show was created and dedicated to busting those widespread myths, proving once and for all that you can’t believe everything you hear.
But just like the jury is still out on the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot…
Is a Perfect PCS Just an Urban Legend?
The Truth and the Myth
If you’re like me, you’ve heard many-a-horror story about PCSing. From lost cars, to receiving the wrong stuff, to having every piece of dishware (no longer available at Crate and Barrel) break. From having a tornado blow away your brand new rental home, to signing a 2-year lease for a house in a slum, to getting put on the base housing waiting list for 6 months.
But how many of the good, even great, PCS stories have you heard?
What about the ones where nothing broke, there was no need to file a damage claim and the kids got along the entire road trip?
What about the one where the flights were on time, you snag the perfect house for the perfect price and your household goods shipment showed up early?
What about that perfect PCS, where from the moment orders dropped to the unpacking of the final moving box, everything went smoothly?
No obstacles, no unforeseen expenses, no fighting, no damaged goods…just a cross-country move with no issues. Is it a myth?
Changing Your Perceptions
Maybe that’s just a fairy tale military spouses tell themselves before going to sleep at night. Call me crazy, but I think the perfect PCS could be real. However the perfect PCS requires a change of our perceptions and attitudes.
My last PCS is a great example. Despite receiving last-minute orders during the summer move cycle, we were able to schedule movers and move out on time. The drive went well and we even got to see friends along the way.
We did frantically search for a rental at our new duty station and got stuck in a place that costs more than BAH. And our stuff did arrive nearly 3 weeks late. And our leather couches (one of my most prized possessions) magically unwrapped during transportation, so when the movers decided to stand one of the couches up on its end on the concrete driveway, I just about had a conniption.
Can that situation qualify as a perfect PCS? To some, perhaps. To others, definitely not.
But when I look at the big picture, aside from a few stressful moments here and there, the PCS was, overall, pretty good.
None of our stuff went missing, and while we did have a few irreplaceable broken items, they amounted to much, much less than it could’ve been. And despite paying over BAH for it, our house is pretty nice (which is important since I work from home).
Finding the Good in the Bad
What I could view as a terrible PCS I instead see as an OK PCS. I wouldn’t want to live that experience again during my next move, but when I reflect on the situation, I know it could’ve been much worse.
Every PCS is a learning opportunity, bringing us one step closer to finally catching Lucky the Leprechaun of PCSes – the Perfect One.
I now know about MILLIE and the comprehensive PCS services they offer, so the next time I need a house I can find one and confidently sign a lease before I arrive.
I now know that every plate must be wrapped, not just stacked on top of one another in a box.
I now know that even if our move coordinator uses the word “guaranteed” when talking about a delivery date, that nothing in this world is “guaranteed” (death and taxes being the exceptions).
Each PCS brings a shift in my perceptions and expectations of what the “Perfect PCS” process should look like. I learn, I grow and I continually lower my expectations of how well the military will take care of my family versus how well private companies will take care of my family.
It’s a melting pot of various disappointments and exceeded expectations that when poured out reveals that things actually work out most of the time.
I believe the perfect PCS is out there, just like aliens. If we choose not to sweat the small stuff and look at overall successes versus losses, I think a lot of people could claim they’ve had a perfect PCS during their time with the military.
And as technology improves, and more and more private companies start to offer PCS services to help ease that transition, I think the perfect PCS will no longer be a myth, but a reasonable expectation.
How Can I Achieve a (Nearly) Perfect PCS?
With all of this information in mind, here are 7 tips for achieving an almost-perfect PCS:
1. Start Researching Early
The second your spouse hints you might PCS to a new location, start learning everything you can about it and thinking about where you want to live. Doing your research well in advance will reduce your stress of finding a home and becoming acquainted with your new duty station.
2. Lay Out Your Expectations, Then Lower Them
This may sound a bit pessimistic, but it’s one way to ensure you will have a great PCS. Either mentally or on a sheet of paper, lay out all of your expectations for your move.
List things like:
- The movers will work quickly and efficiently.
- There will be no waitlist for on-base housing.
Then lower those expectations:
- The movers will probably move slower than I would.
- I’m sure there will be at least a short wait for on-base housing.
By getting real with yourself, you’re setting yourself up for satisfaction (which will make you feel like the PCS is going alright!)
3. Keep Your Cool
As a yoga instructor, I know full well the power of meditation and breathing. And as a military spouse, I’m well-acquainted with the PCSing stressors that can make you lose it.
The path to achieving a nearly perfect PCS is staying calm throughout the entire process.
If something goes wrong, the kids are driving you nuts or the car breaks down along the way, instead of freaking out, pause to take several long, slow and deep breaths. This will help you stay calm and ensure there are no major meltdowns during the move.
4. Be Patient When Facing Delays
As one of the least patient people in the world, I have very little ground to stand on here. But being patient in the face of constant delays and hurdles will make the move seem a whole lot better than if you freak out every time the moving company gives you a new delivery date.
5. Verbalize the Positives
Our words are powerful and it’s easy to complain about everything happening during a PCS. So instead of incessantly verbalizing the negatives of the situation, sincerely start verbalizing the positives.
Saying things like, “Wow, the welcome sign to New Mexico is really pretty” or “I loved that WaWa gas station. They have so much great food in there,” will not only make you feel better, but will also lift your family’s spirits too. (And you might begin to see the positives flow out of everyone else’s mouths too!)
6. Be Open to Learning Lessons
Things aren’t going to go right during a PCS…it happens. But that’s also your chance to learn a valuable lesson that might help prevent that issue from cropping up during your next move.
For example, never will I ever allow the movers to stack all of my plates in a box and put some paper on top ever again! With that knowledge I’m (hopefully) in for a smaller damage claim during my next PCS.
7. Make Your Move an Adventure
Who says you have to suffer the entire length of a PCS? Turn this trying situation into an adventure that your family won’t soon forget.
Stop for lunch at a kooky roadside diner. Take an extra day to visit a National Park along the way. Stop in a big city and explore one of the top attractions as you drive through.
This makes the PCS memorable for everyone, and even *gasp* fun!
Have you experienced a perfect PCS? What are your tips for helping other military families get through a move without losing their minds?
Alexis Miller is the Social Media Coordinator for MILLIE, a website dedicated to making the PCS process easier for military families. Their free information on duty stations, experienced AgentHeroes and helpful Scouts are all resources military families can tap into any time they have to PCS. Military spouses can connect with MILLIE on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. When Alexis isn’t busy working for MILLIE, she’s doing yoga, rock climbing, fly fishing or traveling.