Our beloved on-island manager, Sarah, will be PCSing from Okinawa to Germany this summer.  We’ve asked her to share insights into her journey for those of you who will be following in her footsteps soon!  She and Marie will be trading off telling their coming and going stories…

Follow Sarah’s OCONUS to OCONUS journey here:  2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Summer 2012. For many people that means one thing – the Olympics. For us, I think summer 2012 will be remembered for our Olympic move instead. Yep, it’s time to PCS once again. Here are some things I’m guessing these two events will have in common: multiple nations, massive amounts of preparation, tears (hopefully of joy, but I know I’ll be sad to leave), passing the torch, and jumping through hoops… or Olympic rings. Although we may not end up being presented a medal on top of a podium while our national anthem plays in the background, I’ll be pretty happy when we first hear “Deutschlandlied” followed by the “Star Spangled Banner” at our new base.

Yes, we are moving to Germany! In the past, OkinawaHai has had articles about PCSing away from Okinawa (see links at the end of this article), but every PCS is different. One distinguishing factor to our PCS is that we are moving from one OCONUS location to another OCONUS location. I can tell you about my perspective as a dependent spouse of an active duty Air Force member and hope that our experience encourages others to share tips they learn along the way.

My husband, Mike, and I are about a month out from our Port of Call date (the day we physically leave the island), and that means we have been doing a lot of prep work, but also have a ways to go in our marathon. The first step of an Air Force move is obtaining orders. Official word came that we were moving to Germany while on vacation outside of Okinawa. First we heard rumblings, then rumors, followed by an official assignment notification. After that, Mike set forth on a paperwork decathlon around base, obtaining signatures and making multiple copies with the final reward of obtaining real orders. I’m not going to go into the actual list of events here because this step of the process is constantly evolving. As dependents, there is not a lot that we can do during this stage, except cheer from the stands.

Although the list varies from service to service, there are parts that involve a spouse:

Passports: Lucky for us, all of our passports (SOFA and personal) are still good to go. I have heard that this is the first thing to get cracking on if you do not have passports that are valid for another six months past your expected travel dates. Passports are not necessary to get orders, but you will need them to get off the island and on to your next assignment. If you don’t have a current passport, now is not too early to apply for one!

Medical and Dental Screening: Remember all the poking and prodding you needed prior to arriving on island the first time? If you are going to another OCONUS location, you need to go through the process again.

First off was my dental screening. This was as easy as a scheduling a routine dental examination. In fact, if I had my last full examination within the last 12 months the dental office could have signed off on this without another exam. Rats! Cleanings don’t count! After a normal exam the dental clinic, the paperwork was signed and I dashed off to the next event.

For the medical screening, I turned in paperwork with both my and my husband’s information to the TriCare office. At Kadena this is located in the medical clinic just across from the pharmacy. A word of advice: have the TriCare office check the paperwork over because it is not intuitively obvious what each block is asking for. The TriCare personnel made sure we had all the paperwork complete and scheduled me for a screening. At Kadena Air Base they conduct the screenings on Thursdays and both spouses need to be present at the appointment, so if one of you is not available on a particular Thursday, you’ll have to wait another week for an appointment. The screening was an interview conducted in the Family Clinic. An active duty doctor reviewed our files before we came in and the interview was short and to the point, but paperwork still needed to be reviewed and signed off by supervisors. We left the interview pretty confident that everything was complete, but it still took another two days to get the final forms returned to us.

One word about medical screenings: I know they sometimes get a bad rap. I also know a few people that have been heartbroken by the outcome. Like most things, when you understand the intention, the results may be easier to take. The intended outcome is to make sure you are taken care of. They are making sure that the medical facilities, pharmacies, and personnel where you are headed can take care of your whole military family. They don’t want to send you back later or risk being unable to treat you if something should go wrong.

Finally, we had passed another hurdle and we had our actual orders. Who would have thought these were so hard to come by? Of course I had nothing to do with actually writing these or putting them in motion, but man, it feels nice to get these. Naturally, a few hours after we received the orders a mistake was discovered and the process to amend the orders began. Oh well, we made it through pre-trials and had the paperwork required to keep the process moving.

Next time, I’ll let you know about some training that any family PCSing away from Okinawa can participate in.

Finances and moving (especially State-side)
PSCing to Okinawa links
Final thoughts on leaving
Throwing a PCS party
A series of articles about PCSing from Okinawa to Virginia — Me & My Big PCS: Part 12345678910,  1112131415,  1617181920, 21

(P.S. This is a picture of us celebrating Halloween the Okinawan way – as Sushi!)