This is the first in a three-part series about moving to South Korea as a Non-Command Sponsored Family Member. You may also want to read:
PART 2: What to Do Before Coming Non-Command Sponsored to Osan
PART 3: What To Do Once You Arrive
CONTRIBUTED BY SIBO LUNGU
Unaccompanied. This is the only word that stood out to me once my husband told me about the orders to Korea he had just received.
When we were still dating and I was completely clueless about anything military related, he had told me about how orders to Korea rarely include family. So as soon as he said his orders were to Korea, my first question was, Can I come too? He scanned the orders and one word said it all: unaccompanied. Alone, solo, by yourself.
At the time, he was deployed and I was overseas so everything was at a standstill for a few months, but eventually when we got back to the US we started to do our research. What is unaccompanied? Why did he get it? Doesn’t the system show that he is married? He had just returned from a deployment! Can we change it to accompanied? And again…Why? Why? Why?
Well, I got over the why part fairly quickly, because as military spouses we get familiar with the phrase Service before Self pretty soon after marriage. So whether it was because of staffing in his unit, his job type, or his number just came up, it was what it was. My husband would be going to Korea for 12 months and I was not invited.
An unaccompanied tour is a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) that the Active Duty (AD) military member does without their dependents. Thus, the dependents are Non-Command Sponsored (NCSP). This is the opposite of an accompanied tour or Command Sponsored (CSP) tour where the dependents can PCS with the AD military member.
Some airmen choose to come to Korea by selecting Korea on their base of preference (BOP) dream sheet, while others are volunteered for the tour. Either way, Osan and Kunsan are unaccompanied tours primarily because there simply aren’t enough resources to take care of every dependent. Schools, medical (especially specialists) and housing are very limited.
However, if one does get unaccompanied orders, they can apply for Command Sponsorship. Each unit has a certain amount of slots that are available for command sponsorship. There is no guarantee of approval, but there is also no harm in trying.
A standard unaccompanied non-command sponsored tour is 12 months. An accompanied command sponsored tour is 24 months. One of the biggest reasons people select Korea is to have the ability to choose their next duty station. With a 1-year unaccompanied tour, you are almost guaranteed to go to your base of choice once you leave Korea*.
(*This is not set in stone. Remember – as with everything relating to military life, keep this phrase in mind at all times: Nothing is certain until it has already happened.)
There are plusses and minuses in both categories. How you see them depends on your situation and preferences.
- Stay in one place for 24 months at a minimum (you may be able to extend)
- Moving expenses to Korea are paid for by the military
- Live in a home (high-rise apartment style) on base, so it feels like the US
- Pay no rent on base
- Enrollment in Tricare Prime (no deductibles)
- Priority scheduling (ahead of NCSP) for medical appointments on base
- School slots will be available for children
- E-7 and above are authorized to have a car
- Evacuation in case of emergency
- Choose your next base (not guaranteed but likely)
- Moving expenses to Korea for family members are paid for out of your pocket
- Only a percentage of household goods (HHG) are shipped to Korea
- Live off base and get to experience local culture
- Pay deposit, rent and utilities from your Overseas Housing Allowance (OHA) for your off-base housing choice. Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH), which is only applicable in the USA, will stop.
- Enrollment in Tricare Plus. It allows you to use the base clinic.
- Medical appointments on base are on a space available basis. Local medical facilities are another option. (Many do have English, are modern, and the costs are very low for basic services).
- School slots for children are on a space available basis, and are not guaranteed
- Servicemember may not get approval to live off-base with you
- You can purchase a car off-base, but you will need approval to drive the car on base. E-7 and above are automatically authorized to have a car that can come on base.
- Evacuation in case of emergency
Next week I’ll talk about some of the things you’ll need to do and be aware of before you leave to go to Korea as a NCS spouse.
Note: This series of posts is intended to reflect one spouse’s experience with PCSing to Korea NCS, and should not be taken as a source of authority on the subject. Korea Ye and its writers are not representatives of the US Military or any government agency thereof. For specific information regarding the rules and regulations of moving to Korea as a NCS family member and your particular situation, contact your chain of command for the final word.