Will the Air Force Help You Move?
It took me about a year of doing this blog to realize how difficult it is for civilians to transition from civilian life to commissioned officer. Under perfect circumstances, your entire life is on hold until results come out because it is one of the most drastic life changes I can think of. Throw in delayed board dates, miscommunication with recruiters, or medical complications, and I can see why this blog is as popular as it is! Please, continue to ask me tons of questions so I can keep this blog relevant.
As I alluded to in my previous post, things happen very quickly after OTS. The first thing you have to worry about is how you are going to get from OTS at Maxwell AFB, AL to wherever your first base will be. In the last post, I talked about entitlements and provided a brief glimpse of how the military views travel days and Permanent Changes of Station (PCSing). In this post, I want to focus on our entitlement of the government helping us move our stuff. When the Air Force asks us to move the Air Force will hire moving companies to pack up our entire house free of charge, move it from one location to another, and unpack it at the new location.
Disclaimer: I am not 100% of how this works for civilians, so please let me know if any of this is inaccurate or misses the heart of the concern.
Normal Permanent Changes of Station (PCSs)
For a normal PCS you will normally find out where your first base will be about six months from when you would depart. This is getting an “assignment.” About 60 days prior to your departure, you will get “orders” which is the actual AF Form 899 which authorizes or ‘orders’ you to move from one location to another. Once you get your orders you can start actually making travel arrangements such as setting up TMO.
TMO stands for Traffic Management Office, but it has evolved into a term which describes the process of the military picking up all of your stuff and moving it from one location to another. Technically, I think the term TMO is gone and it has been transitioned to the Joint Personal Property Shipping Office (JPPSO), but it seems like both are still used interchangeably.
About three days prior to graduation you will probably have a briefing at OTS describing this process. In general, TMO is divided into the following categories:
- Household Goods – the majority of your shipment. TMO will arrange for a local moving contractor to show up at your house and literally pack everything in your house up and put them in shipping crates. Washing machines, dryers, beds, dressers, couches, it all can go. Timing will vary, but in general expect for it to take two months for them to get your stuff from A to B.
- Unaccompanied Baggage – You can arrange to have TMO pick up a smaller shipment which will arrive much quicker, I think closer to six weeks. This cannot contain major furniture but can include air mattresses, silverware, a few pots or pans, sheets, or clothes. Again I think they say six weeks but it can be faster.
Moving After OTS
I have hesitated with making a post on this because everyone’s situation will look completely different. In my mind here are a few ways you can make this move work:
- Drive to OTS with everything you own, and don’t worry about TMO. If you choose this option I think you can set up a TMO shipment from your parents house or from a storage unit once you are fully established and settled at your first base.
- Drive or fly to OTS with the bare minimum, and leave the rest of your stuff at home or in a storage unit. Once you graduate you can have a TMO Household Goods or Unaccompanied Baggage pickup set up for your delivery at your first base. In this case you may be able to use a Power of Attorney to allow your family members to sign for the pickup when you are ready. In this case it would probably be best to have what stuff will go in which shipment pre-arranged with your family members.
- Drive or fly to OTS with the bare minimum, and plan to fly back home after OTS to move. This option would be hard to coordinate because it can take time to setup the pickups. Additionally, you may not have a lot of time after OTS and before you have to sign in to your first base.
I should probably mention that there is a weight limit for what you can ship for free through these entitlements, but in most cases it is more than enough. The JTR currently establishes the weight allowance for O-1’s at 12,000 lbs with dependents, 10,000 lbs without dependents. Click Here for the source documentation.