Moving is, and will always be, a painful experience. I should know: I’ve moved 24 times over the last 50 years. Now that I’m preparing for my 25th, I thought I would share my experiences with you.
Unlike most normal people, I’m in the military. This adds its own set of unique challenges since we are often not in control of where or when we go. Fortunately most military moves happen between the months of June and August (also known as the Summer Transfer Season). As much as having a general idea is great, it’s typically left to the transferee (me) to figure out his or her departure date.
But first thing’s first.
Us military folk are typically assigned to a duty station for a period of between two and five years (called a tour). For me, I average about three. This means that about a year out, we begin to look at job opportunities. Believe it or not, we do have some say in where we are assigned. However, the needs of the service always outweigh the needs of the individual and asking for a job does not guarantee that we will get it. Many of us do have the option of extending for a year at our current job, too. Again, needs of the service always outweigh those of the individual.
At the one-year-before-transfer point, we submit what we in the Coast Guard like to call our Dream Sheet (actually it’s called an e-Resume or electronic resume). On it, we list those jobs we’d like to have. We are limited, though. We can only pick jobs that are (a) within our same pay grade, (b) within our same speciality, and (c) have an expected vacancy during that particular transfer season. While there are some variations to (a) and (b) (called speciality assignments), most of us need to plan within all three constraints. This limits our options.
We submit our Dream Sheet and sit back patiently while our Assignment Officers at Headquarters look at everyone applying for the same jobs we want. They also look at career history, our evaluation history, and any high priority people. High priority people could be those transferring off Coast Guard ships or those with children who have special needs.
About six months from our departure date, the Assignment Officer will give us a phone call. With luck, we’ll smile and say, “Thank you!” If luck is not on our side, we’ll have to come to terms with their decision. Either way, it’s time to plan the move.
Two weeks or so after our phone call, we receive our orders. Orders are simply a document that says the member will transfer from unit A to unit B “on or about” a date. For me, my date is “on or about July 1, 2017”. The “or about” part means I must depart my unit within 30-days before July 1st or 30-days after July 1st. The exact date is dependent upon when I need to be there, when my current unit will allow me to depart, and when my successor plans on arriving.
Balancing these three things is challenging. If my new unit wants me to be in place on a certain date but my current command says no, I’ll need to use my negotiation skills. If my successor won’t arrive until late in the season, and my job requires initial training and/or indoctrination, I’ll need to use my negotiation skills. If no one can agree, I’ll need to use my negotiation skills.
So far I’ve managed to get an assignment, get orders, and negotiate my departure date. This took about three weeks in total. Now the real fun begins.
My tentative checklist for departing looks something like this. It’s in no particular order and, without question, not complete… but it’s a start.
- Plan and ship our household goods. I’ll need to work with our Transportation office to have the government ship our entire household from California to Massachusetts. Packing and moving day is always a pleasure (not).
- Plan and ship one of our vehicles. We have two but only one will be driven across country. We need to do this on our own.
- Vacate our current house. It’s a rental so we’ll have to work with the current landlord to ensure it’s clean (including carpet cleaning) and in good condition.
- Schedule a flight for my wife. She plans on flying to Massachusetts early.
- Schedule a flight for our dog. We plan on flying him out on the same aircraft with my wife. We’ll need to find an airline that accepts pets.
- Close out all our utilities. This means cancelling our (over priced) cable, phone, and Internet and shifting all electricity and gas back over to the landlord.
- Submit a change of address card to the Post Office.
- Check out with the Coast Guard in Alameda. I’ll need to meet with all branches of our Base to ensure I’m out of the system (this includes turning in my cell phone – yay!).
- Plan my drive across country. Since I’ll be doing it solo, I’ll need to figure out how many days it will take, where I’ll be staying, and what route I’ll drive.
- Figure out where I’ll stay in July for two weeks. I’ll be alone in California before I hit the road and will need to stay somewhere.
Once my wife and I navigate the checklist, I’ll be on my way from California to Massachusetts. Once there, we’ll reverse the process.
Three years later we’ll do it all again.
I’ll keep you all updated on our progress as we move forward with our move.
Thanks for reading!