By Buddy Blouin

Undergoing a military PCS (permanent change of station) move is a common experience for anyone serving and their families. It may be across the state, country, or world, but understanding the military PCS move can help you, especially if it’s your first time. It’s important to know your rights and avoid some of the common slip-ups some families may make. Below, we’re looking at how you should PCS for a successful move.

Suggested read: Five Tips For Choosing The Right Car Relocation Services

What Is a Military PCS Move?

A military PCS move is when an active duty member and their family move to another institution. This may be due to an upcoming retirement, being stationed out of state, or even out of the country, as needed by the military.

Your permanent change of station isn’t a guarantee, but moving and the military go hand in hand. When it comes to the PCS move, military members can expect to undergo the process once every two to four years on average.

Know Your Rights

Understanding your rights is critical for PCSing. Otherwise, you may be taken advantage of or miss out on perks you are entitled to.

Each move is different and for specific military PCS moves, speaking with your Commanding Officer (CO) or Military OneSource can help you understand your process.

With that being said, here are a few important rights you’re entitled to. Keeping these in mind will help your move go smoother in the long run:

  • You can fire the movers. Unfortunately, there are several horror stories involving everything from damaged personal property to the mistreatment of family pets. If you’re not being treated correctly, report it and fire the movers.
  • Military members who receive a full unpack can have all of their boxes unpacked, furniture assembled, and trash thrown away by the movers.
  • There are pet allowances for moving your furry loved ones.
  • You’ll receive some restrictions on items you can move during your PCS; however, most personal property can be packed. This includes firearms. Hazardous materials and perishable food are not allowed. This includes draining items, such as your lawnmower, of gasoline before moving.
  • Weight allocations vary and can be found using the Joint Travel Regulations Authorized PCS Weight Allowances, Table 5-37.

Breaking Down a “Full Unpack”

During a military PCS move, you can receive a full or partial unpack. In most cases, military members are authorized for a full unpacking, and the crew is required to remove empty boxes, packing materials, and set up your furniture.

Here’s the problem.

While in an ideal world, every moving company does as it says and it will unpack every box, some movers don’t fulfill this end of the deal.

One of the common mistakes made is allowing the crew to pack kitchens and bedrooms last and then unpacking the kitchen last.

For most, kitchens are going to have the most amount of boxes. If you don’t pack the kitchen first and then unpack it first, some movers may claim that there isn’t enough time later and attempt to leave early.

This is important to know as it’s unfortunately a trick some movers may attempt. Remember, if a company isn’t operating in good faith you can fire them as it’s your right to do so.

Related read: Where to Get Moving Boxes For Your PCS Move

Military PCS Move With Guns

If you have firearms, you can move with them; however, doing so responsibly is key. Remember, you can’t make stops when transporting firearms on and off of any base. Therefore, if you have to stop, you’ll need to make other arrangements.

Furthermore, while you can complete a military PCS move with guns by giving them to movers, when possible, it’s best to transport your weapons personally following the law and off of your person.

In the event you have to have movers transport your firearms, here are a few key points to remember:

Your firearms must comply with each state’s laws that they’ll be passing through and can be a part of your household goods if you choose to do so.

This includes an OCONUS PCS, assuming the country you’re moving to allows such weaponry. However, when you get back to the United States, you’ll need to identify your weapons on customs forms and get the appropriate ATF Form 6:

This process can take as much as six weeks. For more information, contact your local transportation office.

During shipment, your firearm should have the bolt, firing pin, trigger assembly, and any other arming parts removed to ensure it’s inoperable.

You can’t ship your firearms inside of your safe, they must be individually packed. Ammo must be removed from your firearm before shipping and you can’t ship live ammo with household goods.

Both you and the movers will need a copy of each firearm’s caliber or gauge, serial number, make, model, and unique characteristics.

Are Military PCS Moves on Hold?

Budgeting issues due to the designation of U.S. Space Command had briefly put a pause on military PCS moves for the Air Force. There were also concerns due to potential government shutdowns. However, these issues have been resolved and PCSing is still in effect as of this writing.

Read next: Three Easy Steps to Finding the Right Fort Cavazos Housing When PCSing


1. Personal Property FAQs, Military OneSource. Accessed February 2023. https://www.militaryonesource.mil/moving-pcs/plan-to-move/military-pcs-moving-faqs/

2. PCS Entitlements, Military OneSource. Accessed February 2023. https://www.militaryonesource.mil/benefits/pcs-entitlements/




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