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USCG Improves Permanent Change of Station (PCS) Process

When it’s time to pick up stakes, the Coast Guard’s Work-Life Programs are looking at even more ways to help.

After her husband’s 28 years in the Coast Guard (USCG), Laura Vanderwerf is no stranger to permanent change of station (PCS) orders. She’s moved her own family of five countless times, and served as an ombudsman for five different units. She knows all the tricks: keeping lists, finding medical professionals and housing, making friends.

“After you’ve done this a while, it’s just a checklist,” she assures families. “Compared to when I first started, we’re in a lot better shape because we do have a lot of resources we can reach out to if we look for them. Now, it’s all cake for me.”

Coast Guard Marina Village family housing Alameda

Coast Guard Marina Village Housing Complex in Alameda, Calif. Due to the limited availability of military housing in the Coast Guard, members transferring to a new assignment are often faced with having to find “off-base” housing within the local community. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd class Levi Reed

That’s partly because of social media, of course – thanks to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, message boards, and blogs, Americans are making virtual friends and connections around the world – but largely due to the Coast Guard’s Transition and Relocation Assistance Program as part of the Work-Life offices around the country.

“We have a lot of Coast Guard members who go into communities with limited networks for that military presence,” said Cmdr. Matt Kleiman, division chief for the Coast Guard’s Individual and Family Support Programs, at USCG Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

“Because the Coast Guard is smaller, I seem to get more personal help in family-oriented things than when we were with the Marine Corps,” said Kaleolani Garcia, wife of Chief Petty Officer Shawn Garcia. The Garcia family of four recently moved for the fifth time from Hawaii to Petaluma, Calif.

To help with PCS moves, the Coast Guard assigns members at the new unit to “sponsor” the incoming member and their family with adjusting to the area. With this program, the Garcias were offered help by their sponsor in determining the best areas for them to live. “When my husband was a Marine, I never knew where to go on the Marine base. With the Coast Guard, there were always people there – they came to me before I even needed it,” said Kaleolani.

Indeed, when the Vanderwerfs arrived in Juneau, Alaska, their Transition and Relocation manager connected them to a group of teens who formed for the sole purpose of introducing newcomers around town. It meant the difference between fitting in and standing out when their children started school. Laura also stressed the importance of using the USCG’s legal office to get power of attorney – a necessary tool to deal with movers, check out of housing, and other regulations while the active-duty spouse is away.

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