America. / Army 101 / PCS

Oh, the places we’re going

A big, obvious part of the military lifestyle is the inevitability of a PCS: a Permanent Change of Station. Or, in my words, a Pack Up All Your Shoes Because You’re Moving Again, And Your Move Date Will Change Seven Times So Good Luck With Those Panic Attacks While You Search For Your Flip Flops. Try that acronym on for size, Army.

Despite carrying the word “permanent” in its title, a PCS is something that often reoccurs; Jonathan and I will be enjoying three PCS moves in the next two-and-a-half years, because we really love sitting on hold with new cable companies and paying activation fees for our utilities.

I, like roughly 99% of non-masochistic humans, don’t like moving. And though the military lifestyle has its perks (manifested mostly in free bourbon tastings), my biggest fear about entering Army wifedom was knowing I’d have to pack up my comfort zone so often, and hope to readjust it each time with minimal tears.

The transitory military lifestyle is something I’ve had plenty of time to dwell on and dramatize. When Jonathan was reenlisting last year, I drew up some maps of continental Army post locations and, in the panic about my marriage and my future, immediately decided that the vast majority of them were horrifying.

(I don’t actually dislike Mormons. I just dislike being landlocked, and can’t think of a truly good reason to not want to live in Utah. Other than that the state was a total douche to the cast of “Sister Wives,” and actually that’s reason enough to not want to live in Utah.)

Click on image to enlarge.
(I don’t actually dislike Mormons. I just dislike being landlocked, and can’t think of a truly good reason to not want to live in Utah. Other than the “Sister Wives” debacle. I always side with Meri, Janelle, Christine, and sometimes Robyn.)

Seeing as I blocked out a good 80% of the country as uninhabitable, my chances of reacting positively to a PCS were automatically pretty low. Army wife mistake #1: only loving America selectively.

When Jonathan returned from his latest deployment, I knew a PCS was on the horizon. So I’ve spent my time in Fort Campbell expanding my tolerance and reminding myself that Trader Joe’s has been opening up a lot of new locations, so I could get lucky.

Wonderful Army Post Places

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I got the Army Post map from this website, and then I hired a professional designer to add all those shapes. By which I mean I did it in Microsoft Paint.

So while we were waiting for the final word on Jonathan’s next station and assignment, I crossed my fingers and dabbled in hoodoo to cover all my bases.

And it worked.

Because we’re moving to…


CA street signs

I know. More people should try hoodoo.

In the next few weeks, we will be making the cross-country drive from Fort Campbell, Kentucky to Monterey, California (the only California pictures I have are from my time with family in Los Angeles, so ignore that we’ll be nowhere near Sunset or Hollywood Blvds). Monterey is home to the Defense Language Institute (DLI), where Jonathan will spend the next year or so beating his brain cells into proficiency in a foreign language, while I will be sitting on the beach beating my brain cells into every bottle of wine I bring back from Napa.

I bet you don’t feel bad for me about not getting a honeymoon anymore.

Though Jonathan will have his work cut out for him while we’re there, we’re both looking forward to the seaside change of scenery in Central California. And I’ll finally be able to take Jonathan to visit my home town and family in Los Angeles. I am beyond excited, but staying humble. In an Army town like Fort Campbell, military resources are convenient and prevalent; I can drive on post to pick up my Tricare prescriptions, do my discount grocery shopping at the Commissary, and take the dog to an affordable vet, and be home in time for lunch. In a regular civilian town like Monterey, everything from finding affordable housing to locking down a good doctor who takes our insurance will be battles of their own.

And when I lose those battles, I will drown my sorrows in my Trader Joe’s frozen Indian food dinners, and bags upon bags of their apple cinnamon granola.

Until the final move date (which changed again while I was writing this, because WHY NOT), I’m trying to buckle down and learn the basics for my first PCS. And by “basics,” I mean a 40-age PDF filled with warnings, tips, and the 50 or 60 ways I will probably fuck something up and lose all my boxes of shoes.

Have you ever PCS-ed or suffered through a big move? Have you ever done so with a dog? Feel free to leave your horror stories, success stories, and tips of the trade below!

19 thoughts on “Oh, the places we’re going

  1. I haven’t moved with a dog, but I did move with a betta fish. He sat in the cupholder of my car the entire time. He was fine, except for when I accidentally dropped him while getting out of the car. The container opened and he started flopping around on the ground next to the tire. I was able to scoop him up and save him so at least he had a great survival story to tell over a glass of bourbon.

  2. The key to a successful PCS…wine and lots of it! We’ve done 3 in the last 3 years and with each one you learn new things. 1) stay on top of your packers because they aren’t always the most competent 2) take pictures of all your furniture and electronics before they are packed 3) make sure all garbage is out of trash cans because they will pack trash 4) make sure your dishes are clean in your dishwasher or they will pack dirt dishes 5) the dog (at least mine did) will go nuts with so many strangers coming and going from the house so get them a new toy to occupy them or you will want to pack them in a box and send them with the movers

    Hope these help! 😉

    • These are great tips, Katie; thank you! The number one piece of advice I’ve gotten is to take pictures of furniture and electronics, because it is likely that something will be damaged, and I think I’ve used up all my good luck. And a few people have recommended Benadryl-ing the dog, but honestly I think if I put him in a corner with half a cup of peanut butter and a string cheese he’ll be set for at least an hour.

  3. How incredibly awesome for you!!! No joke. We have great friends who are living in Carmel-by-the-Sea while he’s at the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey. Now, I don’t know if you can swing it, but if you can live in that town, even if it’s borderline too expensive, do it, it’s a once in a lifetime experience where you’ll be constantly walking on the beach and enjoying a life many others can only dream of. And, if we are out your way we will absolutely pay you a visit.

    • Carmel (the regular version) is our number 1 choice! We’re having a hard time finding rentals out there, but if something pops up we’ll grab it in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, the Army would need to give us more than twice as much Basic Allowance for Housing if we want to swing Carmel-by-the-Sea. Or I’d need to sell a lot of ear warmers–my hands falling off from all the crocheting would be a small price to pay for a place in Carmel-by-the-Sea.

  4. Fortunately our dog is a good traveler, but it is a lot of change so just be sure to be intentional about giving them attention. We also planned for extra stretch breaks and walked them in the morning and night to get pent up energy out as we packed/moved/settled in. As for the pcs stuff, just make sure you keep all your documents for everything. We had a divided folder with lots of pockets to sort orders/receipts/etc in.

  5. Talk about lucky! Enjoy the next few years, you really hit the CONUS jackpot!

    We have two small dogs, and have not had a major problem PCSing with them. Quite a few of the Marriott chain hotels allow pets, so we try to stay at Fairfield Inns whenever we PCS. This way we earn points, and have a clean, non-sketchy place to stay for the evening.

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  9. Monterey has been my favorite place to live. I dream of going back there. Learning a new language was tough, but I survived. I wish I could go back and just enjoy it without worrying about studying. I hope you’re enjoying it as much as possible.

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