The Military Family’s Guide to Surviving Relocation
Moving—and in some cases moving often—is a part of military life. In a lot of ways, moving to a new military base can be a great thing. It allows you to travel to another region of the country and be a part of a local community all while advancing your career. On the downside, relocating can be hard for a military family. Your spouse has to look for a new job, your kids have to enroll in a new school and you all have to find new friends. The logistical and emotional aspects of relocating as a military family can be equally challenging, but with the right resources in place, the experience can be a rewarding one. Here’s how to survive it:
Start Getting Acclimated Before the Move
Your new base will have an office dedicated to aiding with relocation assistance, which can typically be reached through the Military Family Support Center. Their job is to answer your questions before you move and after you arrive. To ease the transition both financially and mentally, contact them long before it’s time to hit the road. Find out if the military will be providing assistance with moving costs. Make sure that you also have all other necessary information regarding your arrival and what you can expect when you get there. Many bases will provide you with a sponsor whose role it is to answer questions and provide you with information. This person should contact you before you move. Once you arrive, you will likely go through an orientation program which should go over everything you need to get settled. Try to get printed information that you can share with your family at this orientation or from the Military Family Support Center. Lastly, ask about the base’s loan closet, which can provide you and your family with temporary items like kitchenware and appliances. Knowing that you’ll have a toaster before yours arrives with the moving company might not seem like a big deal, but little things like this will make your family feel situated faster.
Understand Your Housing Options
Depending on the size of the base you’re moving to, housing options will vary. Where you choose to live is determined by your rank but also by your personal preference. If you rank below E-4, you’ll be required to live in the barracks in most cases, otherwise you’ll have your pick of housing options. Military housing on or around bases is typically privatized, meaning you’ll go through a company like Balfour Beatty Communities rather than a military office. That being said, feel free to address questions about privatized housing to your family’s sponsor or the Military Family Support Center at your base. Privatized military housing usually looks like a master-planned community with homes and neighborhood amenities like pools and parks. Living in such a community is a great way to rebuild your social circle by meeting other military families. If your new military base doesn’t offer housing, ask if there’s a particular part of town that most military families live in. For example, in Las Vegas, home to Creech Air Force Base and Nellis Air Force Base, many military men and women live in the northwestern part of the city and take advantage of a shuttle system. If the housing you want isn’t ready right away (a common situation), talk to your base about temporary housing, which is usually available in the form of a military hotel.
Know Your Resources
Whether you’re living on the base or off-site, there are a lot of resources available not only to you but to your spouse and children to make the transition easier. If you take advantage of these resources, you’ll feel like a local much sooner. Some essential resources include educational offerings. If you’re at a large base, your children will likely be able to attend school on the base. Some bases, like Fort Knox, will allow your children to attend classes all the way through high school. In addition to this, look for youth programs like sports teams and clubs on your base and in your community to help your children acclimate. There are also programs in place for military spouses to meet and support each other, which is an especially valuable resource in the event of deployment.
Use Self Storage
With their month-to-month leases, wide variety of sizes and flexible lease options, storage units are perfect for military members. You can easily book a storage unit online and use it to store your belongings if you’re waiting to move into privatized housing or as a space saving solution if your new housing is smaller or has less closet space than your last home. Because the typical storage unit lease is on a month-to-month basis, you can easily move out of your storage unit should you find yourself deployed or relocated. Most storage facilities offer military discounts, and many offer online bill pay, which is very convenient if you travel often, have a busy schedule or would prefer to spend your time getting to know your new city rather than running around dropping off payments. If you choose to get a storage unit, it’s important to be aware of the different ways that lien laws affect military members. Essentially, thanks to a little thing called the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, it’s tough for storage facilities to auction off the contents of your storage unit should you fail to pay your rent during a deployment. If you do get deployed, talk to your storage facility’s manager more about this before you go and make sure he or she has your spouse or another family member’s contact information in addition to yours.
Enjoy the Perks
Discounted storage units aren’t the only perks of being in the military. Ask the folks at your new base about local discounts and military events. Most cities, especially those with large military presences, have restaurants, hotels and shops that will offer you a discount. San Diego, for example, has 300,000 jobs related to Department of Defense contracts and the local economy relies on business from those employees. You can bet that local businesses reward those employees with discounts. Some cities, like San Antonio, which has a military population of about two million individuals, even offer access to military-only RV parks, where you can camp, enjoy the lake and spend time with other military families. In Atlanta, a military ID will get you free admission to the World of Coca-Cola and access to special military appreciation days at Six Flags that include free admission and a catered buffet. Wherever you’re relocating to, military discounts at local businesses and military events like parades and banquets in your community are a great way for you and your family to feel connected to your new hometown.
Moving can be a challenging, uncertain experience for anyone, but for a military family, it’s an opportunity to be a part of a welcoming community. Follow these tips and before you know it, you’ll feel right at home.