4 Ways to Cope When PCS Orders Change

pcs orders change

Moving season.

As spouses, we have long known that to live a military lifestyle means to accept and maybe even embrace, relocation. This sentiment is often tossed around with the sage advice, “You knew what you were getting into.”

And sometimes we do.

But Murphy is a cruel mistress who loves nothing more than to remind us that in PCS season, sometimes anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Particularly when PCS orders are involved.

Whether it’s a soft-matched dream sheet location that fell through, or hard orders-in-hand have just transformed via military magic, “Presto-Change-O” into a completely unexpected assignment – stay calm, and remember that there are ways to cope with the change.

1. Remember the variables that can drive a PCS

We perform our due diligence on potential duty locations, our servicemembers pair with their mentors and assignment teams for vectoring and timelines, and we do our best to anticipate when a PCS is most likely to happen. Yet even with the best of planning, a PCS can fall apart.

When it does, it’s worth pausing to take a deep – and maybe very angry breath – to acknowledge what can drive a servicemember’s move.

Sometimes, the personnel center will send notification that a “soft-match” has been made, meaning that while hard orders, on paper, have not formally been issued – the PCS match is likely. When that doesn’t happen, it can be particularly frustrating to accept, as it means you’ve been told one thing, only to have it change.

PCS drivers can be anything from “needs of the military,” to a change in mission requirements, or fluctuations in force manning. Determining who is available with the best skill sets needed for a particular assignment and mission, while simultaneously integrating career progression and development, are challenging to mitigate. Additional variables like unexpected separations and retirements, or integrating a change in a family’s medical care plan, can have ripple effects throughout manning.

It doesn’t take away the sting or shock of unexpected change, but it is worth taking a step back to re-evaluate what might have happened to cause an upheaval of plans.

2. Allow yourself time to process and accept the change

When out of nowhere, a new Plan B suddenly becomes Plan A, the sudden change in inertia can be more than jarring. It can feel downright devastating – particularly if the potential assignment was high on the dream sheet, close to family, or simply a location that you’d hoped would come true.

Give yourself permission to experience the flood of emotions that will come. PCS Emotions are complicated things and we usually never experience just one. Anger, frustration, relief, sadness, and cautious excitement will each vie for your attention. In the beginning, simply giving yourself permission to feel and experience whatever mix of emotion courses through you is vital in being able to process the change and keep moving forward.