Military Orders and Overseas Stationing – Relocation Advice for Military Spouses
So it goes as a military spouse – you find out where your husband or wife’s orders will take them (and your family) next, and it turns out to be someplace overseas. Maybe it’s someplace you’ve always wanted to visit – maybe it’s not. But one thing is for sure – wherever you go as a military family – your stuff will need to follow.
If it’s your first time receiving orders to go overseas, you probably have a lot of questions about packing, including what to bring, what not to bring, what to purge and what to put in storage.
First Things First – Arm Yourself With the Right Information
Start by visiting the Defense Personal Property System website. The site helps many military service members set up and manage their overseas move after receiving orders. It’s also a great resource for information regarding moving topics for military spouses.
Assuming your name and the names of any children are on the orders (sometimes they aren’t), one of the first things you should do is ensure your passport (and those of your dependents) is valid and head to the nearest U.S. military passport agent/office and get a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) stamp in everybody’s passport to ensure hassle-free travel.
Pro Relocation Tip: Set up your move online, or contact your installation’s transportation office as soon as possible after you receive orders. This way, you’ll have a better chance of getting your preferred move dates.
Picking What to Pack – Take Weight into Account
You will be given a weight allowance for your belongings – the higher the military member’s rank, the higher the weight allowance. Everything over the allowance will be charged to you, personally.
When it comes to the actual shipping of your household goods, keep in mind the rule of “less is more.” The less you have to pack, ship and unpack (and then bring back to the U.S. with you), the better. Chances are, your stuff will be sent in two shipments – one consisting of general household items and a shipment of what the military refers to as “unaccompanied baggage” which consists of the essentials to get you up and running – pots, pans, utensils, ironing board, etc. Unaccompanied baggage typically arrives around a month before your other goods, but prepare for it to take longer.
Pro Relocation Tip: As you decide what stays and goes with you, keep in mind that you will almost certainly add to your belongings overseas (gifts, new clothes, etc). Try to leave some weight for these added items that will be shipped back to the U.S. after deployment so you won’t have to pay for exceeding your weight limit.
The Cat can Come. Your Fishing Boat? Probably Not.
Most people consider their dog or cat to be an essential part of the family. Unless the military tells you something else, you are generally allowed two household pets to travel with you. Anything other than dogs and cats are typically not allowed.
And as for your fishing boat and other large items – be prepared to find a place to store them for the duration of your time abroad. Check with your nearest military Customs Office, but be prepared to make due without things like boats, RVs, etc.
Pro Relocation Tip: Any pets are required to have a rabies vaccination form and a Veterinary Health Certificate (DD Form 2209). On military-arranged flights overseas, space may be on a first come, first serve basis, so have a backup plan ready in case your dog or cat is denied travel.
Broken, Damaged and Lost Items – Prepare for the Likely Events
Yes, the military wants your overseas move to be as painless as possible, but even the military can’t promise that you won’t end up with a broken, damaged or lost item…maybe even a few. The good news it, you can file a claim within 75 days of your delivery to get some sort of relief.
Pro Relocation Tip: After your move, complete the moving survey on Move.mil. This survey lets you to rate your transportation provider and will help other military families have a good experience as well.
When it Comes to Military Spouses Moving Overseas, You Have Help
You aren’t the first military spouse/family to move overseas, and you won’t be the last. The military has plenty of resources stateside and abroad to make your move to your assigned location less stressful for you and your family. Use every resource you can find, including other military spouses, to make your overseas deployment easier.