Military Moving Mom Monday: Claire McCartney

Happy Fourth of July week, Moving Moms! In honor of the holiday, we want to focus on military families! They definitely make up a big chunk of moving families out there and these families sacrifice so much for us all!

FB_IMG_1434484019541Today’s Moving Mom is Claire McCartney. Claire and her husband, Aaron, move with the Army. Claire married Aaron almost 6 six years ago. They have three children, Jack, age 5, Madelyn, age 3, and Harper, age 1. She taught first grade before choosing to stay home with their first child and with all the moving, she’s glad she did! Since marrying her husband in 2009, they have had four moves, one deployment, and three children.

Tell us about your connection to the military bases and locations where you’ve been.
Aaron has been in the Army for eight and a half years. For five of those, he was aFB_IMG_1434483349192n Infantry officer. His job varied from scout and sniper platoon leader to an XO (Executive Officer) while deployed in Iraq. He applied for FLEP (Funded Legal Education Program) four years ago, got accepted, was sent to law school for three years and just graduated in May. Once he passes the bar exam this summer, he will begin training to be an Army lawyer. We have been stationed at three bases so far- Ft. Riley, Kansas, Ft. Benning, Georgia and Ft. Knox, Kentucky. We loved both Riley and Benning. We lived in Louisville while stationed at Ft. Knox, so we weren’t able to go to the base much since it was a 45 minute drive.

How do you view moving as a military family? What are the pluses and minuses of moving with the military?
We loved moving the first three times. We always viewed it as an opportunity to see a new place, meet new people and have an adventure. Our last move, which was just recently, was the first time we have ever felt sad about leaving . While in Louisville, we were close to both of our families and there for the longest period of time for us, so we became attached to Louisville. There are pros and cons to moving with the military or just moving a lot in general! The pros are you get to see different places around the country and sometimes world. Also, the military will pack and move everything for you. And when I say everything, I mean every, single thing in your home. Even trash in the trash can? Yes, that happened to us. They usually hire a great moving company who comes in and does it all. Also, the military forces yFB_IMG_1434483851139ou to move, which forces you to step out of your comfort zone with every move you make. I have become a more outgoing person who tries new things.
There are cons while being in the military as well though. The one that I think is sometimes the hardest, is that you don’t get to put down roots anywhere. I have friends that I still am very close with, that I’ve known since kindergarten. Our oldest will probably be in fourth grade before we are able to settle down anywhere, which is actually a lot easier compared to some military kids who move all through high school. Another con is that you are moving a lot. And moving is hard work, no matter how much the Army helps, it’s just hard. Also, I’ve noticed with some civilians, they don’t want to invest or be friends with military families because they know we will be moving soon. I can handle it no problem, but I worry how that will affect my kids, if it happens to them someday.

Explain a military move to non-military moms. How does it differ from a civilian family’s move?
Military moves start with a notice to the service member at least three to six months prior, that states they will be moving. It usually gives a PCS date (permanent change of duty station) that tells the service member where they need to be.
Military moves differ from civilian moves in several ways. We expect to move and know that we will be moving about every three years. We don’t have a choice. The Army controls my husband, so when they tell him to go somewhere, we all go.  We also have the option of moving ourselves with a full  (DITY-do it yourself) move, a partial DITY or having the Army move everything. If you choose to do a full or partial DITY, the Army will reimb20150616_155358urse you for the costs. You also get the choice to live in on post housing or rent/own off post when going to a new duty station. I know several places where on post housing is really nice and others where it’s not so great. We’ve never lived on post but we contemplate it every time. There are pros and cons with both. Another thing that may be different in a military move than a civilian move is all the paperwork involved. Since the Army does move your things, reimburse you for meals, hotels, gas, etc; you must show proof of it all. Therefore, it requires weight tickets on all vehicles transported, receipts, and the moving paperwork.

So what’s up with all the military acronyms? What do they mean?
There are a lot of acronyms involved in a military move, so bear with me on these!

DITY- Do It Yourself Move- The Army pays you to move yourself
TDY- Temporary Duty- When the service member temporarily moves for a temporary assignment
CONUS- Continental United States- Moving in the continental United States
OCONUS- Out of Continental United States- Moving out of the continental United States
DEERS- Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System- Huge database with all the information on service members and their families
DFAS- Defense Finances and Accounting Services- Oversee of the Military Pay
DMPO- Defense Military Pay Office- Handles any travel money issues
DoDEA- Department of Defense Education- School system for military children (if they choose to go on base)20150511_171415
DPS- Defense Personal Property System- Computer system in charge of household goods. (You register here for the Army to pick up all your personal property before a move)
GCC- Government Constructed Costs- The costs the government pays to relocate a service member and their family
MALT- Mileage in Lieu of Transportation- If you choose to drive your vehicle from your old duty station, to your new duty station, the government will pay you a set amount for each vehicle
RITA- Relocation Income Tax Allowance- Allowance meant to reimburse travelers who paid additional federal, state and local taxes due to a PCS move
TLA- Temporary Lodging Allowance- An allowance for temporary meals and housing when making an OCONUS move. The allowance covers up to 60 days while you await housing.
TLE- Temporary Lodging Expense- Payment to offset temporary lodging and meals while you’re at your old duty station or after you’ve arrived at the new location. TLE is not paid while your in transit from one duty station to another and is only provided for CONUS PCS moves.

What support systems are there for military families when you relocate to an area? 

The FRG (Family Readiness Group) and the RAP (Relocation Assistance Program). Both are great resources and have been helpful. As far as family and wives’ groups go, there are ways of getting plugged in. Once your husband is “hailed”- a military tradition to welcome you to the new base/company- you are introduced to a lot of wives and families. They also have social events you can be a part of. I try to get plugged into any mom group in the area early on. Library story times, exercise groups, Bible studies, visits to local museums, zoos and parks are all great ways to get acclimated and meet new people. And for us, once we find a church, we always feel at home.

What is your best advice for a family during a move?
Advice I would give is simple. Don’t get discouraged when, not if, things don’t go according to plan. Do as much organizing and planning as you can, but be prepared for it all to fall apart. Stay positive and focus on all the great things about your move. Moving is hard. So once you’re semi-settled (or even before) reward yourself and your family for all the hard work!

What is the first thing you normally do when you move to a new place? Any rituals you all have in every town you live in?
The first thing we do when we move to a new place is find a fun thing to do together. We put aside the “to do” list and focus on a fun outing/restaurant to go to together. Moving rituals include a scrapbook frFB_IMG_1434484114644om each place we’ve lived that includes pictures, stories and artifacts. Now that the kids are older, they can take part in it too! My husband also takes something from the backyard, usually a tree branch, to remember the old house. They carve it together and mark their names with a date. My husband pretends he’s Irish and calls it a shillelagh. Haha!

How do you try and make the moves and transitions easier on your kiddos? How do they handle each move?
This move was the first move that was slightly difficult for our kids because they are still so young. We reassure them the most important thing is that we are all together. And as cheesy as it sounds, we’ve said, “Home is where we’re together.” So wherever that may be, that’s home. We also scope out all of the cool, fun things the new place has to FB_IMG_1434484079959offer before our move. For our most recent move, it was the neighborhood pool, play set left by previous family, new trampoline from grandparents, the beach, the safari zoo and we may have even promised a dog once we got settled here…yikes! We also got them each a new, inexpensive “moving toy” that they got on the trip down. Overall, they are adjusting well.

Anything else you’d like to pass along?
Each military career is different. A lot depends on your job in the military, your branch and your duty station. This is just our story in the military. And lastly, I’d like to add that although it’d be easy to focus on the negatives of being a military family, because it does have its challenges, the Army has taken very good care of us. They really do strive to take care of the service member’s family and we appreciate it so much!

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