Tuesday, June 5, 2012

PCS to Germany...How we did it

Sigh Germany! To say we were thrilled when we got this assignment is an understatement. I was born here, raised here and have spent the last 20 years trying to get back here! My sweetheart reenlisted for this duty station since we didn't want to leave it to chance that we might or might not get it at some point esp with so many posts in Germany being closed. We knew we were going to Germany almost a year before going, the 1st thing I did was look online to find as many resources as possible. Facebook can be a life saver! I looked for groups that had to do with the post we got and used those women as my guide to how to do this, even then we had a few learning experiences outside of all the wonderful advice we were given, here are a few of the things we learned. 1) When PCSing over seas you will be assigned a sponsor, someone from your spouses incoming unit/troop who is to be your connection with the unit/troop and answer your questions and act as a guide through this exciting time. They get training (a short class) when they in-process here thus they SHOULD know what to do. Usually you will be assigned a sponsor who is in general close in rank and dependants. Such as; Matt is a Spc, married with 5 dependants, he should have gotten someone between Spc and Sgt who had dependants, either a spouse or children. The incoming unit assigns these so they SHOULD have an idea of who to match up. This may or may not work out. We were given a Sgt who was single when he moved here and thus had NO CLUE to 90% of the questions we asked and whose answer for everything was "just google it". You CAN request a new sponsor! LOL Wish we had known that. They should be emailing you on a regular basis between once a week to once every two weeks telling you what steps to take next. Ours was in and out of the Field and would email back every other MONTH...lol good thing this guy had a good personality when we got here or he would have gotten an ear full! Your sponsor can even book you hotel reservations on or off post up to 180 days out (I believe that's the amount of time), he or she can and is supposed to be making phone calls for you over seas since you most likely will not A) have the numbers and B) have the ability to due to the time change and long distance. If your sponsor isn't doing the things you need ask for a new one. They really are an important part in your journey! 2) Your sponsor has to attend a levy brief before much of anything can be done. Call your Local ACS or FRC office (call post information if you don't have those numbers or your FRG they will have them). The Levy brief can be done 4 months in advance! Do not wait! You can't start passports, or anything much until you do this. 3) You will have to get command sponsorship if you want to travel with your sponsor. To get this you will first have to do an EFMP screening. Even if none of your dependants are on EFMP you will have to be screened for it. This can be done up to 6 months in advance. I would suggest 5 months. Your EFMP screening can't be any older than 6 months when you move. Go to your local EFMP office and get the correct paper work and ask the steps needed to set the actual screening appt. DO NOT wait for them to call you. If you haven't heard from them or set an appt for more than 2 weeks, call. It can never hurt! Once you've been cleared the EFMP paperwork will go to the correct office and will be sent off for command sponsorship. Ours only took two days to hear back from his unit and be cleared. This is NOT a normal amount of time. If your sponsor hasn't gotten his/her REAL orders in his AKO within two weeks call Port of Calls to see if you can find out the hold up. They become easily over whelmed esp if you are moving during peak season (May-Sept). To make the move easier and faster we opted to move during the spring instead of deferring to summer after the kids finished school. We got housing MUCH faster than waiting during the summer. 4) Once you have orders the sponsor can start passports. Do this ASAP. In the off moving season it takes 4-8 weeks. During peak season it can take 8- WHO KNOWS WHEN weeks. Even waiting and doing them in February we waited 5 weeks. In our case we had a few hold ups that took a bit more time before we could get in and apply for them. A) you must have an original birth cert. for each family member matching the name in Deers that will be on the orders. We had to order new birth certificates for 3 of our4 kids due to a name change. B) 3 of our 4 kids come from a previous relationship meaning we had to get a form signed from my ex spouse to allow me to file for their passports. You have to either have both legal parents there at the time of signing or have this form which must be notarized AND we had to have a copy of his military id and drivers licence front and back photocopied to go along with it when we applied. Fortunately at Christmas as we switched off the kids for the holidays he was kind enough to stop at a notary and get it done right then and there. So, if you and your spouse are not the legal gaurdian of all the dependants you will need to either have court documents showing sole custody or the other parent there to sign the passport application IN PERSON or have this form and have it notarized and copies of the photo id. Yowza that was some work. lol but so worth it! 5) Traveling with a pet. Port of Calls will make your flight arrangements. You have to have actual paper orders for this as well as the passports. When making these flights you will need to let them know you are traveling with a pet, what kind, their size and the size/weight of the kennel for each animal. Make sure when they make your flights that they book a pet friendly airline and that your pet will be traveling WITH you on the day of travel. It's far cheaper this way. We ran into some issues and are incurring a lot of extra charges to get our dog here. We have a boxer and evidently Delta will fly pets........just not snub nosed dogs, which after 4 phone calls to non English speaking customer service agents, all of whom assured me my dog could fly, we arrived at our local airport to find out she indeed could NOT. We had to leave her behind with a friend and are now having to pay approx $623.00 to fly her cargo through Delta (that is with the military discount). Before any of that you have to take your pet to the vet and get them cleared to fly. You have to have a 10 day certificate. It can not be ANY older than 10 days from the day you will ARRIVE in country. Your pet MUST be micro chipped, and more than likely with a 15 digit chip. Check a few months in advance that your pet has the 15 digit, if not get a new one,your pet will have to have a NEW rabies vaccine after the new chip and 30 days after it before they can fly. The health cert MUST be in both English and German. There are international flight requirements for kennel sizes, check those BEFORE purchasing one, even if you have one it may or may not meet the requirements, CHECK!! 6) House hold goods take 10 million years to get here....ok,more like 2 months. Your UB (unaccompanied baggage) will be your life saver! Here are the things we put in ours, and sadly the things we WISH we had put in ours. Pots and pans, bedding for each family member (pillow cases, sheets, blankets and so on) a T.V. and DVD player, Curtains (do you really want to live in a fish bowl for two months?), and toys! The toddler was in heaven when a chunk of his toys came our of one of the boxes,and your sponsors pro gear, you never know how soon he/she may need this, ie my hubby was in the Field after two weeks of in processing and he needed a lot of it and DVDs. A booster seat for all kids who will need one. In Germany children must ride in a booster until 12, and up to 7 must be in a 5 point harness car seat. Here is what we forgot to think about....dishes (DUR), silverware, a crock pot(dude I use this at least once a week, how I forgot this one I'll never know), a strainer and mixing bowls/cookie sheet and a small microwave. A coffee maker, a few fridge magnets, you might actually need them. School supplies. It's cheaper and easier to find mid school year stateside, also if PCSing mid year or late year, when pull your kids from school the teacher SHOULD give then back any supplies they brought in at the beginning of the year that wasn't used. A back pack for school. Alarm clocks. Lastly, Make sure you make them reweigh your house hold goods before you take accept them! We were told we were over by 641 lbs and would be charged close to $2,000.00, however when they reweighed us and took off the 10% packing materials we were under! All that worry and stress for nothing! PHEW!

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