Preparing to PCS Overseas with the Army

Hi everyone, my name is Laurie, and I’m going to be your overseas guru.

First, I have a confession: My husband and I are not overseas yet. However, I’m going to be blogging about my adventure as it happens, so I hope to provide all of you with the most current information as I live it.

Preparing to Move Overseas

When the time comes for PCS orders, it can be exhilarating, scary, and, most of all, nerve-wracking.

Then, learning that you will be PCSing OCONUS (Outside Continental United States) opens up a whole new world of emotions. Just the acronym alone looks scary!

Reading the words Germany, Korea, Italy, Japan, Hawaii, or Alaska on your spouse’s Enlisted Record Brief (ERB) can make you panic. My husband recently received OCONUS PCS orders.

We had talked about Germany when he enlisted, and suddenly our dream became a reality. And I became overwhelmed. After the initial panic wore off, it didn’t take long to become excited about living in another country and about all the opportunities it brings.

I first went to the library to check out one of those language learning CDs. Looking back, I don’t think I would recommend that as the first step to moving overseas with the military, but as a new Army wife sorting my way through my first PCS, it was a nice departure from the real “to-do list.”

Command Sponsorship Basics

I was anxious to start knocking out my list. Still, before we could do anything, my husband attended a Preparation for Overseas Replacement (POR) meeting for all AIT soldiers moving overseas with dependents.

From talking to other Army wives, I get the feeling not every soldier has these meetings, which could leave you pretty much in the dark. Have no fear; I’m here to help!

Read on, but let me warn you – every soldier’s situation is different, and every unit has different rules. I will share with you based on my experience at Fort Gordon PCSing to Germany. If your soldier’s CO tells them something different, go by their word, not mine.

At some point, you’ll hear the phrase “command sponsorship.” This means that the Army knows you will accompany your spouse on their overseas tour.

If you don’t go through the proper channels, you’ll have to set up many logistics yourself and pay out of pocket for expenses the military would otherwise have reimbursed.

EFMP Screening

The first thing I had to complete was an Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) screening.

Some people think this is a physical to ensure you are healthy enough to travel, but this is the Army’s way of ensuring that you have adequate health care where you are located if you need specialists or long-term care.

Make sure you have DD Form 5888 and DD Form 7246 for them to fill out. If you see a doctor who is not on a military base, also bring DD Form 5888-R. If you or your children have any EFMP conditions, make sure to bring a completed DD Form 2792 with you to the appointment.

No-Fee Passport

The next step is applying for your no-fee passport. I was certain I wouldn’t need one because I already had a passport.

I scoffed at this step, reveling in my travel-savvy ways. I had a passport. However, I was being overconfident in my traveling know-how and quickly learned that to travel on official orders, a civilian needs a special passport.

In fact, the travel office won’t issue plane tickets without proof of a no-fee passport.

A no-fee passport is also called a Department of Defense (DoD) passport, and the passport you used on your last Mexican vacation is a regular tourist passport.

People might tell you that you don’t need a no-fee passport but get one to avoid headaches later. There’s plenty of information on the Internet about no-fee passports.

You must apply for a no-fee passport at a military installation – contact the travel office where your spouse is currently stationed to find out where to apply.

Be prepared for a photo at this appointment. I rolled out of bed half an hour before my no-fee passport appointment and then learned I had to have my passport photos taken. I figure I’ll take this opportunity for you to learn through my mistakes… bedhead and all.

Make sure you bring the following papers to your appointment:

1. Passport Application– Fill out as much as possible; you’ll complete the rest at the appointment.
2. Marriage license
3. Birth certificate- Make sure it’s an official copy. In fact, they made a big deal about mine because it was so old that the raised seal was almost gone. The state department may reject it if they can’t tell it’s official.
4. Tourist passport- If you have one. It’s not required.
5. Social Security Card
6. Power of Attorney (POA)- If your spouse cannot be at this meeting, ensure you obtain a POA specific to passport matters.

Expect it to take about six weeks to process the no-fee passport.

The U.S. Department of State, which issues no-fee passports, will send them to the military installation rather than to your house directly.

However, you can request that the military installation send it to you after they have received it. Also, be warned they may not call you when it comes in, so make sure you contact them around when it is supposed to arrive.

Family Travel Message

A Family Travel Message will be sent to your soldier’s command if everything has been approved.

Ours was an e-mail stating that I will accompany my husband to Germany, and we will be granted shipping of our household goods and plane tickets for me.

This document is basically stating that command sponsorship has been approved. The timeline for this message depends on the commander of your gaining unit, so expect it to take anywhere from a week to a month.

The sooner your spouse can contact his sponsor or new unit, the sooner they can get to work sending you this message. Also, note that this e-mail was never sent directly to my husband but received a hard copy from his unit’s operations office.

To-Do List While Waiting

Depending on your situation, your spouse may have orders before you get command sponsorship.

As I write this, we are waiting for my husband’s orders. Setting up your car shipment, appointments for the movers, etc., can’t be done until you have orders. If you are in our situation, there are some things you may want to do while you wait.

The military allows the free shipment of one Privately Owned Vehicle (POV) to certain OCONUS locations. If you have a lien or lease on your car, you’ll need to get a written statement from the lien/lease grantor.

The above link explains what needs to be included in this letter. Also, you’ll want to take care of any repairs your car needs. After $900, we no longer have four warning lights on our Pontiac Sunfire’s dash, but I feel this cost much less in the U.S. than if we repaired it in Germany.

In my next article, I’ll discuss what to do after getting orders and completing the actual move. Preparing to move OCONUS can seem overwhelming, but I always tell myself that if other people have done this before me, then certainly I can do it as well.

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This article was written by a visitor to the site. All of our contributors served in the military, are married to someone who serves in the military, or have a child who serves in the military. These Army soldiers and/or family members enjoy helping others by sharing their experiences.

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  1. I’d like to add that today, Dec 8th, 2010, I updated some of the links that were broke. I try to use military sponsored links, and they do change and update from time to time. Sorry about any troubles you might have had!

  2. Hi ladies,

    My husband’s hasn’t gotten orders YET (should be here by the end of the month) but we are projected to move to Germany sometime between March and May 2011. We are in New Orleans now (with USACE) and are not assigned to an army base (therefore I don’t have a community to bounce questions off of)- I’m also a brand new army wife and this will be my first army move (eek!). Even though I’ve traveled to Europe a number of times, I’ve never orchestrated a huge move overseas — and needless to say, I am completely overwhelmed! I don’t even know where to start with questions. Does anyone have any tips or suggestions about how to get thing started. We’ll be moving with our dog and one vehicle. Any info will be much appreciated!

  3. I’m a new army wife and my husband just left about a week ago to Vilseck, Germany. We couldn’t really start any of my paperwork for me to leave with him so soon because I had to wait for my new ssn card. I was wanting to know what all paper work we needed to complete since we’re in different countries. But more specifically, what all can I do while I’m here to help the process go a little faster (if possible).
    I can use all the advice I could get ladies. Thanks:)

  4. Hello maam I have an important personal question to ask if u can please email me in the email i provided i would gladly appreciate it.

    Thank You,
    Very Repectfully
    Michelle Reynoso

  5. My husband is in the air force his first base assignment is Germany, but I own a house where we are originally from I don’t want to be seperated from my husband for 3 years because I am unable to sell my house without taking a huge loss (sue to economic situations) especially since we have a 2 year old daughter together. What can I do?

  6. Ok just found out that we are pcsing to Germany, my only question of this moment is, well we have two dogs, will they pay for them to fly there?

  7. Hello. My husband received his order to Germany while he was deployed in Afganistan. He just came home early this year. The report date is already next month, July 10th. Our initial plan was I will not follow until January. So when he filled out his paper works, he indicated with no dependent. However, things had changed 360 degrees last week of May. We were told by someone he knew I need to go with him ASAP or at least within 120 days from his order so we can get free travel, shipping of our house furniture etc…I had scheduled my physical check-up the next day w/ the forms my doctor has to fill out. My husband submitted it right away & they sent it to Germany. They said it takes 30 business days to get it back. The papers were sent back to Madigan hospital within two weeks. I am now schedule to have a face-to-face interview or the EFMP. I know the next step would be to get the no few passport. I do have a dilemma though…my passport, naturalization paper showing that I’m a US citizen & my birth certificate were all stolen last year as my parents house was burglarize. My naturalization paper is being processed right now, I was issued a new passport since they have a record that I was already been issued before, I still have to ask my uncle back home to get me a copy of my birth certificate. I only have a photo copy in hand. How would this affect my whole processing situation?

  8. I was wondering if anyone knows anything about pcsing with a macaw to South Korea , if you can or cant ?

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