We longed to stay in Germany longer, but the Air Force sent us home anyway.
PCSing to Germany was so exciting.
PCSing back to the States is stressful and seems to take a lot longer.
PCSing from Germany back to the States
An OCONUS (Outside Continental US) move is a little more complicated than a CONUS move.
What you need to do and know:
Organize your important papers and put them in a safe place to travel on your person as you PCS. Keep your PCS binder handy and organized with dividers, tabs, pockets. We have a nice huge one that zips closed.
The military member has lots of paperwork to complete. Be patient and helpful.
Get clear with all German accounts, businesses, taxes, banks. You don’t want an international incident. There are checklists for outprocessing for the military member to complete to help ensure this is taken care of well.
Exchange or deposit Euro (for easy transfer) at the KMCC BX community bank.
Get copies of everything.
Most contracts – cellular, Internet, and TV accounts must be given 90 days notice! Make sure you take care of this in time for no penalty!
We went through the Comm Shop for cell service and he is super helpful.
Ramstein KMCC (BX mall) also has two shops that can assist.
You have to show up in person to cancel your utilities if you live off base.
Do all the same things you do for all pack outs.
Purging, colored tape, setting aside HHG (household goods) and unaccompanied baggage and professional goods from what you’re taking with you to TLF and on the plane ride.
We chose to pack out as early as possible. This way, we will have our goods ready and waiting to be delivered to our new house, whenever we find one.
It took two days for our packout. It was amazing. At least 3-4 of our 8-9 packers spoke perfect English and had a great sense of humor. It eased my mind. They loved the sub sandwiches, chips, and Gatorade we bought from the commissary for them for lunch.
What’s up with you, America? It typically took four days to pack out during our CONUS moves!
We requested temporary furniture from FMO for the month we’re still in our rental house. We each got a bed frame, mattress, and nightstand. We got a dining table with six chairs, sofa and two chairs for the living room.
We borrowed a dish pack from the Airman’s Attic with rather nice Wearever ceramic pots.
We borrowed some bedding items from a co-worker.
We kept some towels, pillows, and sleeping bags. I kept some kitchen items that I love and use every day. We’ll either throw out, donate, or mail the items to ourselves in the States when we go to TLF.
Take pets to vet to get all necessary vaccinations up to date and travel forms completed, usually within 30 days of travel.
Contact Patriot Express or commercial airline to ensure weather and temperatures will be predicted safe to travel.
We sent our pets ahead to my parents in Atlanta via Lufthansa in Frankfurt so it was easier on everyone the day we PCSed. We had a huge delay so I do recommend this if you have a friend or family member willing to pick up pets and pay the customs fee.
Otherwise, pets travel Patriot Express from Ramstein to BWI (Baltimore-Washington International Airport), then to wherever you go next.
It’s stressful on many animals.
Shipping a Vehicle
We sold my husband’s German car early.
I recommend getting your POV (privately owned vehicle) professionally cleaned and detailed. They’re very picky about condition and cleanliness and will inspect your vehicle top to bottom, inside and out, with flashlights for about 2 hours, noting every single flaw.
Rentals are very expensive in the Ramstein area, so we kept our minivan until the last possible moment, until we moved into base TLF (temporary housing facility).
My husband then had to rely on coworkers to get around to do his outprocessing.
The kids and I walked around base.
The Housing Office provides a letter to give to the landlord to terminate the housing contract.
The landlord has six months to return your security deposit! That’s really tough and they really don’t want to return any money. We had to fight for every penny and didn’t get it all back for petty reasons.
You’re entitled to only 10 days in Temporary Lodging Facilities (TLF) OCONUS. It wasn’t too difficult without a vehicle. Everything is pretty walkable on base.
It was a long journey from Germany to Baltimore. It was a really long time before we could even board our Patriot Express. They were waiting on a deployed group to board the plane and there were other holdups. We didn’t arrive to BWI until what felt like 2 AM.
Getting through customs was another long wait, with the whole plane lining up and snaking through cordons to have orders, IDs, passports checked.
We had booked a hotel room, expecting to arrive mid-afternoon. We had time to shower and get some of the complimentary breakfast, then it was back to BWI for our connecting flight.
Reverse Culture Shock
It’s always stressful PCSing.
It’s really hard to move back to the States when you love Europe and long to stay to travel more, experience more culture, and eat wonderful food.
It’s really loud and bright in the USA.
I really miss good bakeries.
It took me a couple years to feel used to being an American in the USA again. Sometimes, it’s still hard and I get surprised or shocked by something I see or hear.
We try so hard not to appear or sound braggy about our travels. This is just our life. We made hard choices and some sacrifices. We were very fortunate and we used our time and resources wisely. It’s also difficult to explain how it is to travel in Europe so frugally and widely compared to how vast and expensive the USA is.