The Impact of Military Permanent Change of Station on Families: Stories from the Frontlines
For military families, the Permanent Change of Station (PCS) is a constant reality of their lives. Moving from one duty station to another can be a daunting experience for both service members and their families. The impact of PCS on families can be significant, often creating both emotional and logistical challenges that can take a toll on their well-being.
One of the most immediate impacts of a PCS is the disruption of family life. Moving to a new location means leaving behind friends, schools, and support networks. For children, the emotional impact of leaving their familiar surroundings and starting over in a new place can be particularly traumatic. According to the Military Child Education Coalition, military children will move an average of six to nine times during their school years, which can lead to academic and social challenges.
The financial impact of a PCS can also be burdensome for military families. The cost of relocation, including travel, housing, and setting up a new household, can quickly add up. Service members are often given a limited amount of time to complete their move and may be required to cover some expenses out of pocket before being reimbursed, adding to the financial strain.
The PCS process can also place a significant strain on the marriage and family relationships. The stress of relocating, finding new housing, and adjusting to a new environment can lead to increased tension and conflict within the family. The constant upheaval can also make it difficult for spouses to pursue their own careers and maintain steady employment, leading to financial strain and feelings of isolation.
To gain a better understanding of the impact of military PCS on families, we spoke to several military spouses who have experienced multiple relocations. One spouse, who preferred to remain anonymous, shared her experience of moving across the country with three small children. “The emotional toll of leaving behind friends and starting over in a new place is hard enough, but the logistical challenges of finding a new home, schools, and childcare can be overwhelming,” she said. “It’s like starting from scratch every time we move, and it takes a toll on the whole family.”
Another military spouse, who has been through five PCS moves in the past ten years, spoke about the strain it has placed on her marriage. “The constant upheaval and uncertainty of military life has made it difficult to maintain a sense of stability and security in our marriage,” she said. “We are always in a state of transition, and it can be difficult to find time for our relationship amidst the chaos of moving.”
Despite the challenges, military families are resilient and often find ways to cope with the impact of PCS. Many spouses emphasized the importance of building a supportive network of other military families in their new community. “Having a network of friends who understand what you’re going through can make a world of difference,” one spouse said. “We’ve relied on each other for support, whether it’s helping each other find housing or just being there to listen when things get tough.”
In recent years, the military has made efforts to provide more support for families during the PCS process, including financial assistance for relocation expenses, counseling services, and resources to help children adjust to new schools. However, there is still much work to be done to address the unique challenges faced by military families during PCS moves.
The impact of military PCS on families is a complex and multifaceted issue that requires ongoing attention and support from military leadership, policymakers, and the broader community. By listening to the stories of military families on the frontlines and working to address their needs, we can create a more supportive and responsive environment for those who make sacrifices in service to our country.