I don’t think I’ve experienced this much anxiety since I was pregnant. Waves of excitement followed by crashes of fear can do crazy things to one’s stomach. We’re about a month away from when we want to leave our current house in southern California and I feel no where near ready. We’re in a bit of a hurry because we need to take our vehicles to my family in Arkansas so they can take care of them while we’re in Okinawa for 3 years on assignment. Our hope is that we can take a week or so to make the drive and hit up some places my husband hasn’t seen yet (Grand Canyon and Denver). Then spend a few weeks with family before we fly overseas the first week of June.
The saying “hurry up and wait” has never been so appropriate. When we received orders the first week in February, my searching and planning and organizing began. I’ve always taken care of our moves. I just tell my husband when and where to show up if I need him to sign something. It’s worked well for us so far. I found some checklists that broke down what the USMC needs us to do and got started. Every item that I attempted to tackle turned up a obstacle. It hasn’t necessarily been difficult just very particular. As this is the first time we’re having the government move us, the hoops are all new. Hopefully my experiences will help someone else. Otherwise, what’s the point?
The best checklist for a move to Okinawa with the USMC I found is here.
You’ll HAVE to attend the smooth move workshop. I didn’t find it that informative but they’ll have reps from DMO and EFMP and IPAC and etc there so you can corner them and ask questions. We attended the class 2 days after we got orders and I had already discovered all the printouts they handed out.
There is a link to MCCS Okinawa on that checklist that also has a ton of great info in it. If you don’t want to waste the ink and paper, this is one of the things they handed out at the workshop.
The overseas screening had me a bit paranoid. They give you a packet to fill out about your ENTIRE medical history. Every ER trip you’ve ever made, why you were there, what was prescribed, if the condition is still a problem, blah blah blah. After I finally filled it out I had to go see the wonderful dentists on base because my dentist is back in Arkansas and you need a dentist to sign your packet. This Navy dentist had no idea what was going on and didn’t want to sign my paperwork without taking x-rays (even though I was told by the dental assistant that Okinawa won’t be able to access those x-rays). He then looked around my teeth, said “you have a cavity”, signed my paperwork and walked out the door. For real. I ended up going home the next week to see my dad who was sick and managed to see my usual dentist who said it’s a stain and I didn’t need to do anything. So worry for nothing. After that, I turned in my paperwork to the hospital and was given an appointment 3 weeks out. Moral of the story: make this a priority! The doctor came in the exam room, laid eyes on me and said “I’m recommending you to go.” This whole process seemed a bit ridiculous to me but the doctor explained that some medical conditions (like cancer for example) don’t have adequate doctors on island and they don’t want to send someone out and have a condition worsen because they can’t see the appropriate health care provider. O! You’ll also need vaccines, try to find your records. I didn’t have mine so they had to draw blood and look for immunities and then give me what I didn’t have. They require you to get a flu shot which I tried to decline but they said that Japan will not allow me entry if I don’t have it current. So boo.
Once the hospital looks at the doctors notes, they’ll give you basically a receipt that you take to Ipac and then they send it off to Japan and you’ll receive an e-mail with your Dependent Entry Approval which is needed to schedule DMO and flights. I’ve done our DMO scheduling on move.mil but am held up on submitting it until I get our DEA.
I swear I remember on our last move attending a class where you basically sat in a computer lab and a DMO rep walked everyone through the process. Apparently I’m on drugs because they said that doesn’t exist. So several days and 1 amendment later, I have our move tentatively scheduled. The website for that is found here. You’ll need to scroll down to “Schedule Your Move” and find the link “Sign In to DPS”. We used my husband’s CAC card. You can find a reader for them at the PX or on amazon. The weight you’re allowed to bring is not the same as an oconus move. I believe it’s like 30% of a usual conus shipment. For example we rate 13,000 pounds but can only take a bit a under 4,000 pounds to Okinawa. The rest will have to be stored. There are a couple different options for the move.
- UB or unaccompanied baggage which is a limited advanced shipment. No furniture is allowed in this shipment. We’re planning on taking clothes, sheets, towels, air mattress, some basic kitchen stuff, and some toys for Allyson.
- HHG or household goods which is the bigger shipment headed to island. This can have furniture and the rest of your goods up to your weight limit. Be careful not to go over your limit or you will owe money. For military members who are sent to Okinawa and have a limit on weight (USMC) they have a loaner program where you can borrow, for free, furniture for the time you are on island. As far as big furniture, we’re going to take a queen mattress and metal frame, tv and tv stand, a cube storage, and my lazy boy. We’re going to use this as an opportunity to live as minimal as we can and try to see as much of Asia as we can. No excuses or distractions.
- NTS or non temporary storage is where a majority of your belongings will end up. I’m not 100% sure how this works. I tried to get DMO to let me take our stuff to a family owned storage facility in Arkansas but they said if I did I would have to pay out of pocket to get it there and store it there. So basically they have a list of 100’s of contracted facilities. You are not guaranteed a climate control facility. That’s an issue for us. So we were told once we are assigned, to call the facility and inquire. If it’s not up to standards then head to DMO and hash it out there. Fun.
- You are also allowed to store 1 vehicle through the government. I’m not sure how this works as we’re taking our vehicles to my mom’s house. I can tell you that a motorcycle does not count as a vehicle. You can count that in your NTS. You are not allowed to sip vehicles to the island. I believe back in the 70’s Japan shut that idea down. There are tons of cheap cars on island so just make sure to save some money. I’ll probably have a post about this once we get settled and find a car.
- Any gear that is required for the service member’s job is considered separate and does not count against your weight up to 2,000 lbs. Just be sure you keep this in it’s own area so it can be packed in it’s own crate for scales. Spouses are allowed a crate like this as well for any books or equipment pertaining to their work but it is limited to 500 lbs.
Passports! How could I forget passports? The military member will need a no fee passport. As dependents, you can get by with a personal passport but I recommend getting a no fee as well. We went to combat camera on base to get our pictures done for free. Heads up, you have to wear a collared shirt. Even our 2 year old. I was a bit frustrated by this as we have very few options of places to buy clothes much less toddler clothes. Anyway, it worked out. After that, you need to fill out a DS-82 if you have ever applied before or a DS-11 if you have never applied for a passport before or if you are a minor. For example, my daughter is 2 and has a personal passport but because she is a minor she needed a DS-11. Those forms can be found here. If you google no fee passport it will tell you that you need another form as well but the passport agent will fill this out for you so don’t bother with it. So we took our forms, pictures, and birth certificates (proof of citizenship) to SATO and met with the passport agent who verified it all and submitted it.
I’ve heard taking pets is time consuming and if there aren’t spots available on your flight then they have to fly at your expense. There are grants out there for this. Unfortunately I don’t have any info on it. Here is a site that explains some of the vaccinations. Keep in mind that some breeds cannot fly during the summer months. Our dog is a short nose and falls under this category. We decided that due to this and his age, it’s better for him to stay in the states with my mom.
It’s a good idea to keep a binder on hand with your important documents in it and keep any records for important items being shipped. I’ve found what few receipts I’ve managed to keep over the years and plan on taking pictures of all of our expensive things turned on for proof.
Don’t forget to check your military ID and state ID to ensure they won’t expire while you’re travelling.
We still need to request a sponsor, which is not a requirement. That’s someone who is already on island that your command assigns to help you get settled. They can book your hotel for you, open a PO Box so you can forward mail, and pick you up from the airport. I’ve heard some horror stories about sponsors but I refuse to accept them and know we will get an awesome one. Hopefully I’ll be able to pay it forward.
We also still need to give notice to our current housing agent and send our application to Okinawa for housing. You don’t have to send it early but I’ve heard it’s a good idea and what can it hurt? On the checklist I linked early in this post, there is a link to the housing page for Okinawa and gives your the form # you need.
I dunno if I’ve managed to miss something but if I have I’ll add it when I realize it.