CONTRIBUTED BY AMY BERMUDEZ
When I found out that I got command sponsorship, the news had me elated! After too much time spent apart, I’d finally get to live with my husband again, and in Germany of all places. After I Facebooked the good news, told all my friends, and the buzz started to wear off, I was faced with the very real, very daunting task of actually moving to Germany.
I wound up planning the entire move in less than 8 weeks by myself. Eventually, I got there in one piece, but I made more than my fair-share of mistakes in the process. Heed my warning, don’t do what I did!
Here is how NOT to PCS to Germany:
1. Don’t coordinate with the German post.
I was very fortunate that while I was planning everything on my end, my husband returned from his deployment to Germany and planned as much on that end as he could. He took care of getting us housing, which is sometimes the biggest headache of them all. Everything else, however, was a different story. Faxing paperwork, making phone calls, trying to coordinate our US bank with our German bank, was nearly impossible with the time difference. In some instances, I just gave up. The bank was too much trouble since there was a very small window when they were both open, so I decided to just leave my banking situation as it was, and figure it out later. Getting the rest of it squared away was a lesson in futility. I should have prioritized the paperwork, and done whatever it took to get it to Germany.
2. Try making arrangements without a no-fee passport.
When I called the nearest military travel office to make flight arrangements, I was asked if I had an official passport. “Yes, my passport is official,” I told them. Duh, it’s from the government! I didn’t realize that they were talking about a no-fee passport. You need one of these to move OCONUS, and I couldn’t book a flight without it. Everything else was already scheduled and it felt like whether or not I’d actually move to Germany hinged on this one thing. I tried to get in touch with the local passport office to get information on how quickly I could get a no-fee passport, but they weren’t returning my calls. After shedding a lot of tears, I decided to just book my own flight, pay for it out of pocket, and hope that no one noticed that I didn’t have a no-fee. Because of the way our orders were written, we weren’t reimbursed for this money. We had enough saved up to cover it, but I should have gotten the no-fee passport like I was supposed to and flown courtesy of the Army.
3. Don’t have a back-up plan for your pet.
Geronimo is one of those pets that is far more than “just a dog.” I thought the hardest part about his experience would be the actual flight. Yes, that was plenty stressful, but ten times worse was the frustration of paperwork. If you live on or near a military post, there should be a veterinarian there that you can go to for your triplicate forms and official stamps. Living in Dallas, that wasn’t feasible. I instead worked with my regular vet who had little experience in international moves. Add in paperwork getting sent back and forth to the state’s government officials, a kennel that has to be so big but can’t weigh more than so much, and an airline that won’t fly pets when the weather is more than so many degrees outside, and it was a nightmare. Nothing could be done to avoid all the requirements and what-ifs, but I wish I would have had a back-up plan in place. My brother had offered to take Geronimo if I had to leave without him, but I flatly refused saying that if Geronimo wasn’t going to Germany, I wasn’t going to Germany. It would have been a lot easier to ship Geronimo after the move when I wasn’t juggling a million other details.
4. Have no plan for what you’ll do after the movers take everything away.
My mother-in-law came over to my house the day the movers arrived to pack everything up and take it away. She helped me clean and kept me company. At one point, she turned to me and asked, “where are you sleeping tonight.” Ummm. I figured I would sleep at home. Too bad I hadn’t thought about the fact that I had no bed, no sheets, no pillows, no towels. All my precious suitcase space was taken up by clothes, and I hadn’t kept anything to get me through the night in an empty apartment. Luckily, she had space for me and Geronimo to stay at her place. I should have booked a hotel, coordinated with family members, or kept some items back for the time frame between after my stuff had been crated up and before I got on the plane to Germany.
5. Get emotional at every roadblock.
We all know that moving is frustrating, stressful, overwhelming, utterly disappointing at times, and completely crazy-making. When it comes down to it, most of it is out of our hands. The little rules with didn’t know about (like no-fee passports) and complicated requirements (the kennel can’t weigh more than 100 lbs with my dog in it, but my dog is 70 pounds and the kennel is huge) are enough to make you want to pull your hair out. Getting upset, however, doesn’t fix the roadblocks. Far too many times I ended up in a puddle of tears trying to coordinate the next thing item on the list that just didn’t want to be coordinated! I wish I would have channeled my emotions in a healthy way (like working out) instead of crumbling quite so often.
I was up against a lot – a short time frame, my first PCS ever, the fact that I was doing most of it alone, the time difference – but when my plane touched down in Germany in August, I let out a big sigh of relief. The stress had been worth it (although I don’t recommend doing things the stressful way), and I was finally at my destination: Germany.