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A Military Wife Opens Up About Her PCS Experience

While many military spouses dread the PCS, I welcome it with open arms. The lists, the strategizing, and the careful planning and execution of these plans gives my type-A personality an outlet. While each PCS has its intricate details and timeline I feel our most recent was notable for two reasons: 1. It was to be our first PCS with children (a 6-month-old and a 2-year-old) 2. Destination: Alaska!

Now it is not very often that a USMC Family is given the opportunity to be stationed in Alaska, but with orders to complete 3 years of recruiting duty we opted to make the best of it by having an adventure.

This was not our first overseas move. 

We had PCS’ed from Hawaii three-and-a-half years prior, so we were confident in our ability to make this happen.  My husband could coordinate the main parts of the move while he was attending Recruiting School at MCRD San Diego. Packers, Movers, Vehicle Shipment and Temporary Lodging were all scheduled in a way to give us the smoothest transition from 29 Palms, California to Wasilla, Alaska.

While my husband was taking care of logistics I was prepping our home, children, and pets for the big move. All unnecessary household items were sold or donated to the local thrift store. Vehicles were posted for sale on local buy-sell-trade pages as the Marine Corps would only be shipping one vehicle for us. Pets had their vaccinations updated and received a clean bill of health to travel.  I packed suitcases for myself, husband and children with all the things I thought we would need for our first six weeks in Alaska while awaiting our house. In an amazing stroke of luck my step father had taken a new job in Anchorage in January of this year and bought a house. We would be staying with him in his new house while we awaited the closing date of our own home in Wasilla, about 45 minutes away.

The plan was flawless. 

A friend would be purchasing one of our vehicles so we would be able to drive it until the day we left. Several other friends would be cooking us dinner so we would not have to stress meals while we were in temporary lodging. And although it was last minute, and the flight would be a red eye from an airport that was three hours away, the Marine Corps bought our plane tickets, even seats for my little ones so we would have space to spread out on the long overnight flight to Alaska.

My vehicle was shipped from the Port of San Diego almost without a hitch, TMO had given my husband the run around as they thought we should be driving to Alaska not shipping a vehicle. But, ultimately, the orders stated we could ship it – so we did.

The packers and movers came and had all our worldly possessions packed and on the truck in less than two days. Thankfully my organization skills made it quick and painless. My husband oversaw this process while my children and I had fun at the hotel. Our dogs stayed with a neighbor to reduce their anxiety.  When the movers were done, my husband stayed up all night to clean out the house. We were determined to not have to pay Lincoln Military Housing any sort of damages or cleaning fees. His exhaustion the next day was worth it as we passed all inspections with flying colors.  We then had a whole day free to say goodbye to our friends.  It was all going so smoothly. 

Then, disaster.

On the day of our travel my husband went to the rental car agency on base to procure the vehicle that would get us, our children, baggage and two extra-large crates to the airport. He had made the reservation online two weeks earlier as well as checked with the agency in person three days earlier to make sure the proper vehicle would be available. It wasn’t there!

We had a very specific timeline in which to get to LAX with the least amount of traffic. I watched precious hours tick away as we frantically called everyone we knew in the area with a truck. No dice. We called every U-Haul company and car rental agency within a 60-minute drive and finally located a truck for rent in Palm Springs that was available. My husband made the drive to retrieve the truck in record time, picked us all up and off to the airport we went. I don't think I breathed a full breath until we were at our gate.

Luckily, traffic had been in our favor. We utilized the hot meal and shower facilities at the USO before we checked our pets and luggage. The kids were awesome, a bit cranky with the late night, but ended up sleeping the whole flight.

We arrived in Anchorage and my dad picked us up to whisk us all to his house for some much-needed rest and relaxation. We spent the next six weeks exploring anchorage and the surrounding area while we closed on our first home. Alaska has been amazing so far. It really is still the Wild West up here. Although winter is coming and I’m a bit anxious for how it will go, I’m excited for my boys to experience their first white Christmas.

The hardest part of any PCS is the waiting. You do all this planning and organizing, but none of it can be executed until the last minute. Over all we have had two very successful PCS’s – both overseas moves –  one with children and one without. In three years, we will leave Alaska and the whole process will repeat itself. What a life we live.


Kristin, the author, is a seasoned Marine wife and an expert on PCSing.