An overseas PCS is going to look different with each family. This is primarily due to the size of your clan and the housing situation at the base you are heading towards. We are leaving SC and heading to Stuttgart, Germany. The tidbits I share with you here are what we have encountered for a group of 7 to move to Germany and may not pertain to everyone and every situation.
Heading to Germany means passports. If you are military, this means 2 different passports: one official, non-fee, non-pleasure-travelling passport that will contain your SOFA stamp; and one that you will need to apply for in the normal fashion. The SOFA passport is technically the passport you could travel on for ‘official military business’ and would suffice for most of Western Europe. However, if you wish to travel east of Germany to Poland and beyond, you must have a normal passport. They are much easier to get than I thought, but it will cost $140 for each adult and $85 for each child. If you have never applied for a passport book before, the US charges a $25 acceptance fee for processing, add this to each.
- If you have an outdated passport, you will need to turn it in with your application.
- For adults, you can apply online with an easy, online passport wizard, print off your documents, staple the 2″x2″ photo, and mail this in.
- For children under the age of 16, you must apply in person with parent/guardians present, showing proper documentation that you have authority to take the minor out of the country. There is a partial waiver to be signed if all guardians cannot be present.
- The United States Post Office will also handle the paperwork for a fee at any participating PO. Please call ahead, most have designated days and times for processing passports.
- After weeks of leaving phone massages, we found out that our main PO took walk-ins for Passports 😦
- must be full, front, facial photo with white or off-white background, dated no more than 6 months from application date
- Walmart can now process and print a passport photo for you for under $8!! Go to their website to process your photo and staple it to your application.
- The United States Post Office will take this picture for you and attach it to the documentation for a fee.
- The transportation office here on Jackson was kind enough to print off an extra set of the photos they took for us to turn in with our civilian passport documentation.
Medical Clearance First
Heading overseas often means limited medical treatment facilities. This means that dependents need to be screened for possible ‘exceptional’ medical needs to determine if the overseas location can handle the situation. Our particular base would not put the family on the orders until all medical clearances were attained. This means I had to wade through the Military Treatment Facility’s appointment line and scheduling to get all dependents seen by a doctor and ‘signed off’ for clean bill of health.
After attaining these signed medical release forms, I had to take them to the Exceptional Family Member Program office to hand these documents in and get my EFMP stamp clearing us for Germany. Getting this part accomplished took just under 6 weeks. So begin early and be diligent with the phone calls!!
Once we got the EFMP stamp, we had the whole packet of info sent to the base in Germany. They approved the family coming over and issues a Command Sponsor Letter. This meant hubby could bring his family over and we could have an amendment to the orders allowing us to come over. There was a catch: there was no government housing to fit us on base. This means hubby is going to have to head over first, secure a home for us, and then we get to fly over. It’s a bummer, not what we wanted, but it’s the way the game is played. So we sit the bench waiting for our turn ‘in the box’.
One the family has been put on orders, the transportation office will schedule the pack out and pick up of your housing goods. When heading to an overseas assignment, you have 3 options for your household. Our unaccompanied shipment was different from others I have heard of, I don’t know why. Normally this shipment is the last thing picked up, they wrap in in boxes, slap it on a pallet, and fly it over in a C-130. Ours is going by boat and was the first one picked up.
- Unaccompanied Baggage: these are things that are shipped 6 weeks prior to your arrival at your duty station. Germany has an active ‘lending closet’ program that loans out beds and cookware while you wait for your things to arrive. However, they do not provide linens for you! Also with our large family, most borrowed cookware and dish sets don’t cover our crew. Here is what I am sending ahead:
- Several sheets of varying sizes
- A couple of stock pots
- Several skillets
- Suits (my hubby will be preaching in Germany, so we need his ‘gear’ ready to go when we arrive.
- Plates and utensils
- Window coverings. German houses have unique windows, but I am sending something anyway.
- Some toys for the kids
This continues to be a work in progress. We aren’t there yet and this little list of items took me 2 months to complete. It is by far the most challenging PCS to date!!