6 Tips for Preparing to PCS Back to the States from Overseas


Post by International Military life Community Manager Courtney WoodruffUSAA-Member-Community-OCONUS-Back-To-States-small.jpg

You’ve survived the stressful, exciting, life-changing process of moving to a foreign country. Maybe you’ve even fallen in love with your host nation (like I have), and you’re enjoying the experience more than you ever thought possible. Just when you’ve gotten comfortable doing life overseas, orders come through…


Ready or not, it’s time to move back to the States!


Even though the OCONUS to CONUS moving process is similar to what you’ve been through already, it’s important to be aware of certain differences up front so you don’t end up a bind when it’s time to leave. Here are six tips for preparing to PCS back to the U.S. from an overseas duty station.


Get your vehicles ready to ship and/or sale ahead of time.


Service members are authorized to ship one vehicle at the government’s expense when PCSing back to the States. If you have two or more, it’s time to decide which one(s) you want to sell and which one you want to take with you. Plan ahead to make any repairs, and gather the documentation needed to get your auto ready to sell or ship. Living overseas can add to the length of time it would normally take you to accomplish these tasks, especially if you need to order car parts. It’s important to note that a new regulation makes it necessary to take care of any recalls on your vehicle before it can be sent back to the U.S.


Secure pet transportation as soon as possible.


At one of the first in-processing briefs I attended with my husband when we arrived overseas, I was struck by something a representative from a local veterinary clinic said, and I’ve carried it with me ever since: Military families have earned a bad reputation for leaving pets behind at OCONUS duty stations. Having struggled to get our dog overseas, I understand the stress the extra expense and lengthy paperwork process can add to an already challenging PCS. However, it’s important that we take care of all of our family members when we head back to the States - including our beloved pets. Booking flights with an airline that will allow you to bring your dog(s) or cat(s) with you, checking to see that immunizations are up to date, and making appointments to have health certificates completed should be a top priority. If finances are an issue, check out SPCAI.org; you may be eligible to receive a grant to help offset the cost of relocating your pet.


Purge before the packers arrive.


During our time in Europe, we’ve collected quite a few things we either won’t need or won’t be able to use when we move back to the US. To avoid having to throw away perfectly good household items when you get to your next duty station, it’s necessary to go through your belongings a few weeks before the packers arrive. Sell, donate or giveaway items such as 220v electronics, transformers and adapters.


Terminate overseas utility services and contracts well in advance.


As soon as you have hard copies of orders in hand, it’s a good idea to contact your utility (gas, electric, internet, cell phone, etc.) providers to find out what you need to do to cancel your services. Depending on where you are, termination requests may need to be made several months in advance. It’s recommended that each notice be made in writing so you will have a paper trail in the event you continue to be charged after you’ve left the country.


Set aside your important documents.


We recently heard a PCS nightmare story about friends who realized their passports had been packed up by the movers a few days before they were scheduled to fly back to the States. They ended up having to make a long drive and spend quite a bit of money for emergency passports so they would be allowed to leave. Yikes! Remember to set aside all of the important documentation you will need during your move - passports, driver’s licenses, marriage certificates, immunization records, Power of Attorneys, etc. - so they don’t end up on the back of a moving truck when you need them.


Be aware of reverse culture shock.


We experienced the unexpected effect of culture shock when we arrived in Germany. Would you be surprised if I told you you may experience reverse culture shock when you move back to the U.S.? I experienced a little taste of it the last time I visited Texas. Compared to the everyday routine I was used to in the States, life in Germany moves along at a slower-pace. Whether or not you realize it now, your OCONUS duty station is changing you. Give yourself time to adjust and ease back into the way of life when you return.


Have you survived an OCONUS to CONUS PCS? What tips would you share with fellow members?


Additional information:

How to Prepare for an Overseas Move

Check out the USAA – International FAQ


Courtney.jpgBlogger Biography: Courtney Woodruff is a military spouse, mom and writer currently living in Germany. She has a master's degree in Human Services Counseling: Military Resilience and currently serves as the International Military Life Blogger and Community Manager for USAA. She has a heart for our troops and their families and strives to share her own experience to help others overcome the unique challenges of military life. Follow her adventures on her blog, Courtney at Home, or connect with her Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.