How Does Moving Work in the Military?

military pcs move

Moving is a part of military life. In fact, that’s often part of the appeal of the military. Servicemembers enjoy the experience of living in different parts of the United States and foreign countries during their military tenure.

The downside to all this adventure is that servicemembers must move quite often, about once every three years. These frequent moves can be quite stressful, but knowing how moving works in the military can help make the transitions easier. 

Here’s the information you need to know about making a move in the military.

Three Types of Military Moves

When it comes to moving in the military, Uncle Sam will tell you when you’re moving and where you’re going. However, you do have some say in how you move. There are three basic types of military moves:

1. Government Permanent Change of Station (PCS)

military pcs move

A PCS is simply military speak for moving from one location to another. With this type of move, you’ll be going to a new installation where you’ll serve for two to four years.

One of the nice things about a Government PCS move is that everything is handled for you. You’ll be told what your moving date is. You’ll also be assigned a Transportation Service Provider (TSP) who will carefully pack up your belongings, load them onto a truck, and take them to your new home.

Once the TSP arrives at your new residence, they’ll unpack everything and place it where it belongs. They will handle your possessions with care every step of the way, but if anything does break, they are liable. You’ll be able to file a claim and get reimbursed for any damages.

The only downside to a PCS move is that you have no control over anything. You have to trust the TPS completely. If you’re the type of person that wants to be involved or doesn’t like other people handling your belongings, then you may want to consider another moving option.

2. A Personally Procured Move (PPM)

military pcs move

A PPM move, also known as a DIY move, puts you in control of everything, but it is a lot more work.

If you choose this type of move, then you won’t have the help of a TSP. You will be responsible for packing up your belongings, shipping them to a new location, and then unpacking everything.

Your reimbursement will be based on how much your stuff weighs and how far it’ll need to travel. That means, you’re responsible for weighing the empty truck and then weighing the full truck. The difference between those two numbers is how much your stuff weighs.

On top of that, you’ll have to keep careful track of your mileage to receive an accurate travel reimbursement.

The downside is that you’ll typically have to pay for everything up front and wait for reimbursement. You should also be aware that not everything is a reimbursable expense.

For example, truck rentals, packing material, and fuel costs are all reimbursable. On the other hand, mover’s insurance, oil changes, and storage unit rental are not authorized for reimbursement.

Be sure to review this comprehensive list of what is and is not reimbursable.

3. A Partial PPM

military pcs move

This type of move, also called a Partial DIY move, is a blend of the first two types of moves described.

It’s perfect for those who want to have some control over their move, but don’t want to do 100% of the work. With a Partial PPM, you determine exactly which of your belongings the TSP will handle and which you’ll take care of yourself.

For example, there may be some expensive items or important family heirlooms that you don’t want to leave in the hands of others.

As with a full PPM, you’ll have to make sure that you weigh any vehicles that you use to transport your belongings. Hold on to your weight station receipts so you can be properly reimbursed.

When separating from the military and transitioning into the civilian world, the military will cover your moving expenses one final time.

What’s Involved in an Overseas Military Move?

military pcs move

Moving within the United States is one thing, but moving to another country adds an additional layer of complexity for servicemembers and their families.

Fortunately, the military provides plenty of resources and support for military families who are planning an Outside the Continental United States (OCONUS) move.

Unlike stateside moving, there is no DIY option. All your belongings will be packed into crates and shipped overseas for you. Most homes overseas are smaller than American homes so try to donate or throw away as much as you can before the move.

Once you find out you’ll be moving overseas, then start the passport process if you don’t already have one. Each member of your family will need a no-fee passport and a tourist passport.

The no-fee passport will be used to get from the United States to the country you’re moving to. The tourist passport can be used to visit other countries. For example, if you’re stationed in Germany, you may want to visit France or Switzerland.

It can take up to 10 weeks to get these passports, so the earlier you start the process, the better.

Each member of your family will also have to go through a medical clearance exam at the nearest military treatment facility. The doctor there will ensure each member of your family is healthy and has all the necessary vaccines to make the overseas move. 

The military knows that moving to a new country can be overwhelming. That’s why you’ll be connected to an overseas sponsor. This person will be able to tell you about schools, housing, and other details about where you’ll be living and working.

If you have kids, they are entitled to a youth sponsor. This is someone their age who can tell your kids what to expect when they arrive in a new country. Children may feel less anxious about moving to a new country knowing that there’s a friend waiting for them.

Making Moves in the Military 

Moving as a servicemember is definitely stressful, but the military does have plenty of resources to help make the transition as easy as possible. Take advantage of everything offered to you so you can enjoy the adventure of living and working in new locations.

Empire Resume Will Help You Transition into the Civilian Workforce

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We specialize in writing military resumes!


Dr. Phillip Gold is President/CEO of Empire Resume and has vast experience writing resumes for both professionals and servicemembers transitioning from the military into civilian roles. He served as a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and was responsible for leading nuclear missile security. Phillip is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and holds a BA in Communications from The Ohio State University, an MS in Instructional Technology, an MBA in Finance, and a PhD in Finance.   

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