AF News

Okinawa PCS - Part 2

Contrary to popular to belief, the USAF does make it ‘easy’ to move yourself and your family overseas. But that is going to take planning and plenty of preparation on your part for it all to come together into a successful move. However, my only disclaimer on all this is that I actually read the applicable AFI’s and Form instructions before I started asking people questions. I found that I was able to answer my own questions without bugging anyone most of the time. Also, I will cite the Edwards AFB’s way of getting dependent medical clearances done. I am sure your base may differ, even some of the medical office names might be different, but the end goal is the same; to get your PCS orders! Oh yea, Google is your friend as well…

So before I begin, a little refresh on my family/military situation, since this will affect my PCS entitlements and what I have to accomplish to get my Orders…

I am traveling to Okinawa (Kadena AB) with my wife, my 4.5 month old daughter, a small dog (7 lbs. Yorkie), and I am a SNCO. Your situation may be different, so just add/subtract what you need to do to get your Orders, but the requirements for each process will be similar at all AF bases.

I am going to lay it all out from the beginning and work my way to the present. Since getting your PCS orders cut relies on you managing a timeline, so it only makes sense to write it this way. So let’s begin!

- The Assignment Notification

Back in Part 1 I wrote about my favorite type emails to get, Assignment notifications! So when that assignment selection afterglow wears off, there are some important things you have to take care once you get that notification. This does NOT include trying to out-process your Squadron a year out from leaving, and believe me people try!

The first thing is having the service retainability for the assignment itself. This may entail extending your enlistment or actually re-enlisting, but I recommend the former. I say this because you never know what the future holds, and it is easier to cancel an enlistment extension than a new enlistment. You can also deny the assignment, and depending on your current military situation, there may be some adverse consequences that come along with that decision; Read the Assignments AFI and proceed with caution!

However, I ended up extending my current enlistment, and I also made sure to sign that assignment rip and get it to the base’s personnel section, pronto. I do want to point out that most OS assignment selections are made around 9-12 months from the actual report not later date (RNLT), so once you handle your initial assignment notification you will have a lot of down time to think about your future assignment. I say this, because you can’t really do much of anything else to you are actually 120-90 days out from your RNLT or projected departed date (PDD) at most bases, so keep that in mind. I do want to note that adjusting your RNLT or PDD needs to be done during this time-frame, so put some thought on when you actually want to get to your new assignment. You don’t want to be forced to burn a bunch a Leave just because you left too early in the month before your RNLT month. Now on to getting your Orders cut!

- Dependent Medical Clearances

Obvious mine and my family’s dreams of sunny beaches and tasty sushi are not going to happen without some PCS orders in hand, so once it got within 120-90 days of leaving Edwards, I got to work making it happen! But there were two MAJOR things that I started almost as soon as I found out we were leaving to Okinawa, and that was my dependent medical clearances and getting our pet travel ready too. I have heard that both these requirements have caused plenty of heartbreak and stress for USAF members traveling to Okinawa (Other OS assignments as well), but luckily I was spared those difficult experiences so far. I will go over what I had to do to get my dependents medically cleared next and our pet travel clearance experiences in Part 3.

Luckily, I am a pretty proactive type of person and I started my dependents’ medical clearances as early as I could, which was around 180 days out. I bring this up because I think I really won over the medical clinic personnel here at Edwards and made them more willing to accommodate me on some minor issues that popped up during our medical clearance processes. So before I begin with the laundry list of things I had to do, here is some background on what medical services the family and I were using here at Edwards AFB during the time I was trying to get all these medical clearances done. But first some key players in this process…

1. Manage Care: Here at Edwards, they reside in the medical clinic and pretty much guide you through the whole process of getting yours and your dependents medical clearances done. They are there to answer your questions and also to keep tabs on all your forms throughout the process.

2. Primary care physicians: I my case, they signed off on many of the required forms I needed for my dependent’s medical clearances. Whether they are on-base or off-base docs, they will be involved in the process. Just know that off-base docs can sign the forms, it does NOT have to be a military doc. Just understand you might have to help them a bit if they never have dealt with the forms before.

3. Myself/You: I can’t stress it enough about being proactive on getting everything done as far out as possible. Every step of the process takes time and I assure you, the stress you will endure worrying if your family gets medically cleared to travel with you or not is no bueno.

Ok, next a snapshot of the medical services my family and I were using at the time of getting medically cleared…

Wife: Primary care provider was on-base, OB care during her pregnancy was provided by an off-base provider. Dental care was provided by an off-base provider as well. She had no major medical issues, but currently has some unresolved dental issues.

Daughter: When she was born, her initial medical care was by an off-base pediatrician, but I later moved her to an on-base provider due to our PCS (more on that later). Luckily, she has had no major medical issue as to date.

Myself: All my medical/dental care was on-base. I don’t have any major medical/dental issues, never have either.

So here is what I had to do to get the ball rolling on the medical clearances, sorted by how complex it was…

Myself: This is the easy one! Here at Edwards, this is just a matter of contacting the right people and letting them know you are PCS’ing overseas. This will consists of a review of your medical records, updating your vaccinations, and getting any required lab work completed. I also had to make a PHA appointment and a actual medical clearance appointment as well. I started this about 90 days out from my PDD and I was medically cleared to go about 30 days out from my PDD. I suspect if you have ongoing/unresolved medical issues or are all messed up somehow, this may take some time, so start early!

Daughter: Luckily, the wife and I were blessed with a healthy baby and her medical clearance was pretty easy to get done. By the time we actual leave for Okinawa, she will only be 4.5 months, so that makes her medical records are pretty thin at this point. The only concern the on-base doc had was to make sure we made all her wellness check appointments that fell in the timeframe we had left at Edwards AFB and that she got her vaccination shots done. The following form had to be filled out, but oddly, just one tiny section, Section 3 on Page 3, of form DD 2792-1. This was accomplished during her first wellness check appointment if I remember correctly. I was told by the doc that this was a Kadena AB medical clearance requirement. I also made sure to get copies of her hospital medical records (from her birth) and the ones her off-base pediatrician had. I needed all those records to get her clearance done, so I couldn’t blow that off. If the only medical care your dependents have ever received was on-base, you should be good to go already, since they should already be in the “system”. I was told beforehand that there is a process in place for the Medical Clinic to request off-base medical records when you start your dependents’ medical clearances, but I took no chances on how long that would take and I got them myself. I then gave all those records to the med tech at my daughter’s first wellness check on-base, so they could get them scanned in the system. Of course, I had my own copies as well, just in case things got “lost”. Here is the list of the forms I had to fill out and all these forms have instructions on how to fill them out in the form itself. Remember, Google knows all…

- DD FORM 2792-1 (SPECIAL EDUCATION/EARLY INTERVENTION SUMMARY): This required for all school age children and I guess newborns too…

- DD FORM 2792 (FAMILY MEMBER MEDICAL SUMMARY): Since my daughter was a newborn, this was NOT required. But if your dependents are older, you will need to fill one out for EACH dependent.

Wife: So this is where it gets a little complex. The Managed Care section wasn’t going to even start her medical clearance until she gave birth, this makes sense, but this made my proactive self very nervous! The baby was due in March 2013, and we are leaving July 2013, that only leaves four months to get BOTH of their medical clearances done! Does…not…compute…arghhh! Oh well, it all worked out obviously, but I did make some behind the scenes adjustments that I could control to make sure the process went as smooth as possible. First thing I did, was get her medical records (make copies!) from her off-base OB after the baby was born. Luckily, that doctor’s office handles plenty of military patients, and it was a breeze getting her records from them; and it was free! I imagine if your off-base doctor didn’t have a lot of military patients or familiar with what you were trying to do, there might be some grief getting records/support for your medical clearance or some cost involved.

The second thing I did was made sure an on-base doctor was her primary care provider. This is important, because they can sign off on the DD FORM 2792 easily and they have access to all her on-base medical records already. So when the time came, I made an appointment for my wife to get the DD FORM 2792 signed off, which was about a month after I called. I guess they only do these types of appointments once a week at Edwards AFB, so starting early was really the key here. Here is the form I needed fill out and got signed off up to this point.

- DD FORM 2792 (FAMILY MEMBER MEDICAL SUMMARY): Fill in as much as you can before you go to your appointment, it will save you time.

The next thing I had to complete for my wife was the AF FORM 1466D (DENTAL HEALTH SUMMARY), since unlike our newborn at the time, she has teeth! This is used to document what dental work may be needed within 12months and beyond. I was apprehensive about this, since my wife needed her impacted wisdom teeth out, but her pregnancy put that procedure off. I was worried that I HAD TO get it done before we left or something and it was close to $2k for the work to be completed! Side note, I was shocked to find out that I had to PAY for my wife’s dental work while I was in States! I was so used to being overseas, where you don’t pay a thing! Oh well, at least we are going back overseas anyways, so she will get the work done there and that will save us $2k. Anyhow, the off-base dentist documented her current condition and signed the 1466D and I got that to Managed Care (keep copies!). I guess if your dependents use the dental services on-base, the process is the same, just make the appointments as needed. The form I filled out…

- AF FORM 1466D (DENTAL HEALTH SUMMARY): Pretty straight forward to fill out, but I needed to guide the off-base dentist on where he fills it in and what it was actually for. No biggy.

So were we actually done now? Nope, not even close! So after I get all those different forms signed off, I now had to make another new appointment to complete the AF FORM 1466 (REQUEST FOR FAMILY MEMBER'S MEDICAL AND EDUCATION CLEARANCE FOR TRAVEL). At this appointment, the main doc that handles the dependent medical clearances at Edward’s reviewed all my dependent’s DD 2792’s, their off-base medical records, and other associated material, and signed off on this form. However, be aware that this form carries quite some weight when determining if your family will be “medically cleared” to travel with you overseas (can be heartbreaking I hear). I will go more into that in a bit and some notes on the required form…

- AF FORM 1466 (REQUEST FOR FAMILY MEMBER'S MEDICAL AND EDUCATION CLEARANCE FOR TRAVEL): Fill in what you can and bring it with you to that appointment. It wasn’t a long appointment us, but the doc asked us some additional medical questions that were on the form (Section VII), so be prepared.

So were we done after that? Almost. Once the doc signs off that form, the whole process gets turned over to the Manage Care section. This involved another appointment to sit down with their team to go over all the paperwork. The is mostly to make sure all the forms are signed where they need to be and that the supporting medical records were on-hand to be sent to Kadena AB. Now this is where the heartbreak may happen for some people and I guess this happens just enough that the Manage Care section knows what cases will most likely get approved or not approved by the gaining base. So let me explain what I have learned, and I apologize for waiting to the end to do it, but the next couple paragraphs may be all you need to understand how the AF processes dependents’ medical clearances.

After the Manage Care section blessed everything, it was all sent electronically (thank god!) to Kadena AB’s medical center for review. It is the solely the GAINING base’s decision to approve or deny that your dependent’s are medically fit to travel with you. This includes deciding that they have the medical resources available and needed to support them. No one from your LOSING base makes that decision! All the medical personnel on your base do is properly document your dependent’s and your existing medical conditions on the forms, and make sure those forms get to the gaining base in one piece. That’s it. So sometimes the gaining base’s medical authorities have to make that hard call and deny your dependent’s travel. For example, if my wife was literally crazy in the head (she is not) and needed daily counseling sessions to keep it together, the medical authority over at Kadena AB could determine that they have already hit their “crazies” quota limit on the Okinawa, and they will most likely deny her OS travel. And assume further that I have been medically cleared to go already and my daughter was medically cleared as well. So obviously this must mean my crazy wife has to stay here at Edwards AFB, while my daughter and I soak up the rays on Okinawa’s beaches for a few years. See ya when we see ya!…well not really! What really ends up happening is you and your family are NOT going, assignment canceled! Enter the heartbreak. I actually came across another military member’s blog on the Internet and that is how it ended for them. That poor guy documented just about every week of his family’s preparation for their “exciting” PCS to Okinawa, only to have one of his kids travel denied (medical reasons) at the very end; assignment canceled!

So I think that is about it for the dependents’ medical clearances, or at least for my situation. Of course others’ mileage will vary. I think it took about 5 months, from start to finish on getting all the medical clearance done, and most of that time was made up of the big gaps of time between all the appointments. Just remember to be proactive!

Now on to the rest of the steps needed to get your PCS orders!

- The other steps…

Ok, I will tell you now that you will most likely become BFF’s with your assignment counselor at the MPS for the rest of these steps. When I initially got notice of my assignment in the email, I also receive a large collection of file attachments that explained what I was supposed to do. It wasn’t really organized, but I have PCS’d a couple times already, so I knew what to expect more or less. But there was one form that I pretty much used the whole time to keep track of all the tasks I need to complete my PCS orders. It was the exact same form my assignment counselor used to keep track of all the papers I ended up giving him so he could cut my PCS orders. I applaud the person that made that happen at Edwards AFB, because that was the most common sense thing I seen up to that point in my PCS prep. I will recreate the basic steps I needed, with explanations below…

1. Initial relocation interview: This was covered by my initial assignment email from the MPS and it is covered in vMPF as well.

2. AF FM 4380 Special Needs Screener: N/A for me, but I think it is only for a CONUS assignments.

3. Passport requirements: Super important for your dependents, so make sure you start this process ASAP! You will receive a “no fee” passport, which means it is of no cost to you! It looks that same as the normal American passport, but it states in the passport that your dependent is living in Japan with you because you have orders there. That is good, because they could get deported because they will not have a valid visa in their passport that covers your whole tour in Japan. My wife is a Korean national, so her current Korean passport is fine. If you are unsure about your situation, call the appropriate office on your base that handles this process. But I didn’t need my daughter’s actual passport in hand to get this checked off on the list. It was just a letter that needed to be signed, which simply stated I have ordered the passports needed for my dependents.

4. Small arms qual: Easy, I just need the M-16 qual for my career field and I worked with my unit’s UDM to get that scheduled. Once I qualified on the M-16, this box was checked off!

5. Medical clearance: This is for my medical clearance. See notes above. I made an appointment, got the letter signed, check!

6. Dental Clearance: Again, this is just for me. . I made an appointment (needed teeth cleaned), got the letter signed, check!

7. Immunization: Again, this is just for me. I told them I was going Japan. They gave me a shot or two, printed up my records, and off I went. Check!

8. DEERS Verification: This was handled in the ID section of the MPF. They simply make sure your dependents information is correct in DEERS. Check!

9. Security Clearance: Luckily for me, I still got a few years to go before I have to renew my security clearance. So I got the letter signed by my unit’s Security Manger and was good to go…Check! However, if you are NOT current, be prepared to get your renewal started BEFORE you leave!

10. Retainability Requirements: As I mentioned above, get this done as soon as you get selected for an assignment, if needed of course. I extended my current enlistment and so… check!

11. Flight reservation form: This is used to tell Passenger Travel who is going with you, so they can arrange all your travel. Do this early in the process! I ended up scoring the Patriot Express all the way to Okinawa! My assignment counselor had to sign this before it went to Passenger Travel, and don’t forget to put your pets on there if you plan to take them. Check!

12. AF 1466: I beat this to death above, so yea…check!

13. AF 965: Do you want to end your marriage? “Elect” for your dependents NOT to travel with you overseas! Haha j/k! But read it carefully, this will affect who is on your orders. Check!

14. AF 422: N/A for me, but it is for Korea assignments.

15. KAIP: N/A for me as well, but this is used to elect for the 2 year tours to Korea.

16. ALS memo: N/A…man, that was back in 2006!

17. Force protection brief: N/A for Japan. But it is needed for other countries, and you will know if you need it.

18. AF 63: N/A, I am not near my retirement window, but if you are…

19. Fit test: I had to test, I passed, check!

20. SABC: I needed the CBT and the hand-on class. Passed…check!

21. CBRNE: I needed the CBT and the hand-on class. Passed…check!

22. PPC CODES: N/A for me, but maybe for you…check!

There were more things on that checklist, but they didn’t apply to me. So after I got all those tasks done, I was able to get my PCS orders cut! Actually the Big AF in the sky cuts your PCS orders. Your assignment counselor is just the middle man in this process, since they only collect and pass on all the paperwork they receive from you to the big AF in the sky. So once my checklist was completed, I got my orders in less than a week!

So there you have it, the whole “getting your PCS orders cut”, in a nut shell. I am just happy I got this part done! Damn, this took way longer than I thought it would take to write down! In the next part of this series, I will go over the more “fun” stuff I have found so far. Like the pay entitlements, housing options, “Can I bring my car!?”, and, “Are there larping clubs in Okinawa?”. See you in Part 3!

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