Navigating consecutive OCONUS assignments

Navigating consecutive OCONUS assignments

by Stacy Roman
Stripes Europe

As the assignment notifications begin to roll out for the upcoming move cycles, you may have been surprised to learn you won’t be heading back to the States. You’re one of the fortunate few to score a back-to-back overseas assignment. Whether you're moving to a neighboring country or a completely different theater (Europe to the Pacific), your PCS experience may be a bit different from your peers moving from OCONUS to CONUS. Here are a few things to think about when you head to your next overseas post.

A “free” trip home. One of the perks of having two consecutive OCONUS assignments is the continuous overseas travel (COT) entitlement. Essentially, the government will pay for a trip from your current OCONUS duty station to your home of record. There are specific rules and guidelines, so you’ll want to make sure you go through your local transportation office before procuring any tickets. The Defense Travel website is also a good starting point for information.

More clearances to go through. When you received your initial orders overseas, you likely met with medical personnel as well as the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) coordinator to clear you and any dependents. You should be good to go since you were cleared the first time around, right? Not necessarily. Medical and educational needs can change between assignments. If your orders are for a smaller, more isolated base (Norway, anyone?), they may not be able to support your needs. Be sure to make your medical and EFMP clearance appointments as soon as you receive your notification.

To visa or not to visa. The process of moving OCONUS gets confusing when you throw in visas, vignettes and passports. Do you need a visa? A vignette? A passport? The answers are maybe, maybe and yes. Depending on your location, you may need a visa for your dependents. A friend was PCSing from the U.K. to Italy and ended up with a delay due to unforeseen visa issues for their dependents. If you’re en route to the U.K., vignettes are highly encouraged. They’re essentially a stamp in your non-tourist passport, which allows you entry and exit rights into the country. Valid U.S. passports are also required.

Patience is key. Remember when you first moved to your current location and how long it took for your household goods to arrive? Keep this in mind when you start planning your pack out. When we moved from Germany to the U.K., it was probably the fastest shipment we’ve received in my husband’s 20-year career. However, for a friend moving from Germany to Hawaii, it took four months for household goods to arrive and about five months for their final vehicle to show up. Depending on your circumstance, you may be entitled to ship things to a non-temporary storage location back in the States. Likewise, you may also be able to release goods currently being stored to be sent to your gaining installation. Just have patience and know things will get there eventually.

Good communication is critical. It never fails during a PCS; at some point, the lines of communication will suffer a breakdown. Keeping those lines open is vital. Communicating not only between your family members but also with your losing and gaining units, unit sponsor, personnel and traffic management offices is essential to successfully navigate your impending move. Create a simplified to-do list and methodically work your way through it if it feels overwhelming.

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