Moving to Yokosuka: A PCS Guide for Military Families

Join our Facebook group page where you could post your questions or share your experiences for other families.  Facebook.com/groups/YokosukaPCS.

07-11-12

We just found out that we are moving to Yokosuka! It’s almost the end of the school year for our kids. There are a lot of fun activities lined up not only at school but also in our family. In the midst of all of these, we are also getting started doing our paperwork for our upcoming Permanent Change of Station.

This is our second time being there.

We have a long list to do. Since we are not new to this PCS or Permanent Change of Station, I shall be paying attention to the details, so I may share it in this blog for other military families’ benefit. Moving to Yokosuka involves lots of steps and information, so I hope this guide will help many future residents of Yokosuka.

Our first priority is to get our Overseas Medical Screening completed. So, we are gathering all our medical and dental records and we are asking our medical/dental providers to fill out a form called NAVMED 1300/1. The kids had their last physical check up done within the year and all their immunizations are up-to-date, so all I have to do is to go to their provider’s office and drop off the forms. I can pick it up later this week.

GOAL: Overseas Medical Screening (NAVMED 1300/1)

NEEDED: Orders, Form NAVMED 1300/1

  • Make sure all the medical and dental check ups are completed. If not, make an appointment with your provider to get this done ASAP. Make sure the shot record is up-to-date and all immunizations are as well.
  • Get your PPD skin test for tuberculosis done and have this notated in your shot records.
  • During your expected travel, plan ahead so that you will have enough medications. However, don’t worry about transferring your prescription to USNH Yokosuka Pharmacy as it is easy to do. Just bring your bottle as soon as you arrive, so they may transfer your prescription. Make sure all prescription medications are in their bottles with all the information printed on the label, so you won’t have any problem getting through the customs.
  • Retrieve your medical and dental records from the hospital records section. You will need to hand carry these during your travel.
  • Set up an appointment with the clinic that handles Overseas Suitability Screening. For us in San Diego, this is done at NTC Point Loma. You will have to go there in person with all your medical/dental records and NAVMED 1300/1 completed, so that they can review it before you will be given an appointment. If it is not complete, you won’t be able to secure an appointment.
  • On your appointment day, bring everyone with you (sponsor/service member and all the dependents). This is usually a no-pain experience. The screener will only ask you all questions about your medical suitability.

Next on the list is to have our passports renewed. We also need to get our no-fee passports.

GOAL: Tourist and No-Fee Passports

NEEDED: Orders, Form DS 11, Birth Certificates or Expired Passports, Passport Photos, Money

  • Set up an appointment at your local post office or library to have all your tourist passports renewed.
  • More information by clicking here.
  • Then, proceed to your local NAVPTO office and apply for a no-fee passport. You will also need a birth certificate and passport photos for each of you. For us in San Diego, this is located at 32nd Street across the parking lot from the Main Navy Exchange up the hill. You may walk in. Please note that NAVPTO only accepts typed Form DS 11, not handwritten. So, get this prepared and printed before you show up.
  • The difference between a tourist and a no-fee passport? The no-fee passport is provided to you by the government free of charge in conjunction with your official travel abroad, ie. the PCS. On all your other travels while in Japan (or any other overseas location including travel back to the US for a visit), you should use your tourist passport.

07-27-12

A little bit over 2 weeks since I posted about our preparation for our Permanent Change of Station (PCS) to Yokosuka, here’s what we have accomplished so far:

  • All physical and dental exams are completed for the kids and myself. I had several blood tests done and all came back negative. These were required for the overseas screening. The kids also had a PPD skin test done for tuberculosis and both of them came back negative as well (last test was done in 2007).
  • We have already submitted our no-fee passport applications at the NAVPTO office. This special passport is issued to the dependents of the military member in conjunction with their residence abroad.
  • We have appointment set up to renew the tourist passports of the kids. This will be on Thursday, August 2nd, at 11 am.
  • Annaliza’s tourist passport has also expired, so she will need to mail in her renewal application. This will be done on Monday.
  • My tourist passport is still valid until 2017.
  • Since NAVPTO took the kids’ birth certificates, I went to the County Registrar this afternoon to get another copy for each of them. I pre-printed the forms at home and presented them to the clerk who, in turn, asked me to sign them in front of her. I paid $42 for the copies, which only took less than 10 minutes to process.
  • We also went to NTC in Point Loma to make an appointment for our Overseas Screening. We brought all the required medical/dental records and was given an appointment for Thursday, August 2nd, at 2:45 pm.
  • We have submitted an application for a child care via Navy MWR online, so that we can place our kids on the waiting list for the School Age Care before- and after-school program. We also mailed a paper application to Japan. I happened to used to work there, so I know the process and it pays to submit an application ahead of time.
  • We have also completed our HEAT housing application in Yokosuka and we are now in the advanced waiting list. That will be activated once we report in the housing office in Japan.

GOAL: Child Care Projected List

NEEDED: DD Form 2606

  • If you have kids that need care, know that there are child care centers/homes for children 6 weeks old until pre-school, and School Age care for those in the elementary.
  • There is a long wait in Yokosuka (shorter wait in Ikego and Negishi housings). But, you may already place your kids’ name in the projected wait list. Print the DD Form 2606 (you may Google it) and mail it to Main Child Development Center or School Age Center, PSC 473 Box 60, FPO, AP 96349-0060. There is a web site where you can also do this, but based on a couple of personal experiences, I don’t think anyone ever checks the web site. Make sure to enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope so it is easier for CDC to send you a confirmation letter that your children are placed on a projected wait list.
  • As soon as you arrive in Yokosuka, call the CDC at 243-3219 or CYP at 243-4079 to let them know that you have children in the projected wait list, and you have just arrived and want to place them in the active list. They will need your local contact number and the Navy Lodge room # is just fine until you get your own phone #. Then, constantly update them of any changes in your contact information. Call them every month to get an update of your child’s position and for them to know that you are still interested.
  • More information about child care by clicking here.

GOAL: Housing Projected List

  • You may also start sending your information and anticipated housing needs to the Housing Office through the H.E.A.T. program.
  • To learn more, click here.
  • To learn more about the housing options in Yokosuka, Ikego, Negishi or off-base, click here.

GOAL: Online Self-Counseling for Household Goods

NEEDED: Orders, Estimated Pack Out Dates

  • Smart Web Move has since moved here. You may set up an account, but remember that you do not need to purchase a certificate.
  • Here, you will need to enter you orders information and do a self-counseling for your household goods. This includes Expedited Shipment (a small portion of your household goods that is shipped unaccompanied and are expected to arrive in Yokosuka faster. Mostly, things that you will need immediately such as clothes, pots and pans, etc), your Household Goods (majority of your stuff that will be shipped to Japan) and  Non-temporary Storage (things you would like the Navy to store, such as your washer/dryer since you won’t be needing them in Japan).
  • After you have completed the self-counseling, wait for an e-mail from the Personal Property Office. They will advise you when to bring in your orders and dependent entry approval and any other information that they may need.
  • One piece of advice, while you are at the web site and are encountering problems, try to adjust/lower the resolution of your screen. E-mail sddc.safb.etapmo@us.army.mil for any assistance. They are quick to reply.

So, should you bring your furniture to Japan? This is a question many families ask. I asked around and I found one common answer. First, your furniture WILL fit into the on-base housing (tower or town house). So, if you plan on staying at a Military Family Housing or MFH, you may bring your furniture. Just leave your washer/dryer as each unit has these already. All other appliances are provided for such as the refrigerator, dishwasher, oven and microwave (We prefer our own microwave, so we just return the Navy-owned one and get a receipt so we won’t get charged for it). By the way, make sure you include your oven toaster and your coffee maker in your Expedited Shipment. I’m sure you will need these as soon as  you move into your housing. If you plan on living off-base, many Japanese houses may not be big enough for your furniture. So, it all depends on your intention or housing preferences. Just remember that it may be very expensive to pay for storage when you find out you are unable to use your furniture.

Here’s a suggestion from a friend:

“My friends advised us not to bring furniture, but rather buy our furniture from the many bazaars. Glad we listened. We came w/ nothing came back to the states w/ A LOT!”

– Michelle A., military spouse and former Navy Fed Yokosuka team member

08-03-12

This week, we accomplished what we have set to do. We were able to renew the kids’ tourist passports. We also went to the Naval Training Center in Point Loma for our Overseas Suitability Screening and we believe we passed it.

I was also able to utilize the move.mil web site’s Defense Personal Property System (DPS) for our household goods. We are looking at the Christmas week for our pack out. 500 lbs for the unaccompanied bag, 1000 lbs of our household stuff to go to a storage (books, washer/dryer, treadmill, etc.) and the rest will be shipped to Yokosuka. The e-mail support was very quick to respond even at 8:00 pm (already 10:00 pm Central Time where they’re located).

Next on the list:

  • Annaliza has to route the transfer information in her command. We will wait for it to come back before we can receive our Family Entry Approval (will take about a few days). Only then can we submit our online request for our household goods shipment.
  • When the above step has been completed, Annaliza will proceed to the Personal Property Office at the 32nd St for confirmation. She will also request for a letter authorizing storage of one of our cars.
  • When our pack out dates have been confirmed, Annaliza will proceed to her command’s Personnel Support Detachment to get our flight itineraries.
  • Then, around late November we will submit our Intent to Vacate at our current housing. I will also submit my resignation notice at my job.

08-17-12

We are now on a waiting mode. We have completed almost everything except for getting our flight itinerary. That will come after our Family Entry Approval is released.

I mailed Annaliza’s tourist passport renewal yesterday. This morning, I picked up our no-fee passports.

We are also still waiting for the Personal Property counseling session for our household goods. We already completed the self-counseling online and have set up 3 shipments – one for the unaccompanied baggage, one for a non-temporary storage and one for the rest of our household goods.

Annaliza was surprised that we got done way too early this time around. Perhaps because both of us are getting good at PCS, and secondly, because we are familiar with a Yokosuka PCS.

I just wish it is December already.

GOAL: Touch base with your sponsor

NEEDED: Transportation, Navy Lodge, AOB/ICR and Child Care reservations

  • If you haven’t done already, make sure you are keeping in touch with your command sponsor. They should have contacted you by now. You will need to have an open line of communications with him or her, because they are a big help. Even though you might not have the itinerary yet, send your sponsor your expected arrival in Japan (airport, which is probably going to be Narita, flight number, time). They will make a reservation for you for the DOD bus from the airport to Yokosuka.
  • Ask them to make a reservation in the Navy Lodge for 30 days. If your itinerary changes, call 1-800-NAVY-INN. Call them, too, to make sure you have a reservation confirmed. You may need to give them your credit card information to secure your reservation.
  • Also, ask your sponsor to make a reservation for you and your spouse to attend the Area Orientation Brief/Intercultural Course. This is a mandatory five-day course that is prerequisite before you can get your local driver’s license. However, you will need to attend the Housing Brief within 2 days upon arrival in Yokosuka, so make sure the AOB/ICR is scheduled at a later week (Monday-Friday). If you arrive on a weekend, anticipate to attend the housing brief on Monday/Tuesday, then attend the AOB/ICR the following week. There are no AOB/ICR on weeks with holidays.
  • Ask your sponsor to make a reservation for your child care while you are at the AOB/ICR. This is free of charge (child care vouchers are given each day at the AOB/ICR) and there are usually spots available for newcomers attending the week-long course.

At this point, you should already be considering your timeline from the time of your initial pack out, up to your arrival in Yokosuka. Since our PCS is around the Christmas holiday, we planned the following:

12/11, Mon – Annaliza is already on leave.

12/14, Fri – Kids’ last day at school. Pick up school records.

12/19, Wed – James’ last day at work.

12/20, Thu – Expedited Shipment pack out.

12/26, Wed – Household Goods (HHG) pack out.

12/27, Thu – Non-temporary Storage (NTS) pack out (start cleaning the house).

12/28, Fri – Morning: turn in our car for long-term storage (military-paid storage). Afternoon: Turn in our military housing.

12/30, Sun – Direct flight from San Diego to Narita Aiport.

12/31, Mon – Arrive at NRT airport. Take DOD bus to Yokosuka. Check in at the Navy Lodge.

1/2, Wed – 1/4, Fri – Mandatory housing brief at the Housing Center.

1/7, Mon – 1/11, Fri – AOB/ICR

1/14, Mon – Take the driving test and get licensed.

After you have created a timeline, let your sponsor know, so s/he may make arrangements for the Navy Lodge, DOD bus, AOB/ICR and child care while you are at the AOB/ICR. You will need to report to the Housing Center yourself on the first business day after your arrival.

GOAL: Travel Itinerary

NEEDED: Orders, DEA/FEA, passports, date of travel

Once your Dependent Entry Approval, also known as Family Entry Approval, has been released, go to your command travel office and request for itinerary. You will be given an opportunity to write down when you expect to travel. We chose Sunday, Dec 30th, out of San Diego because Japan Airlines has opened up a direct flight from SAN-NRT and they fly on Sundays. Though I did not specify the flight, I wrote down 11:30 am, which is the actual flight time. A match came up and we were given the JAL flight from San Diego. The bottom line is that you research which is the easiest and most convenient flight itinerary for you and write it down. If you are flown commercially, Navy might be able to accommodate it.

Once you have your itinerary, make sure you let your sponsor know. Keep in touch with him/her for any last-minute changes, so that your bus and lodge reservations can be modified. You will receive an email of your itinerary from the travel agent. It might indicate that your bookings have been confirmed and there is not a need for you to re-confirm them. However, as you will read below later on, something happened to Jasmine’s booking. So, I strongly advise you to call the travel agent AND the airline to make sure EVERYONE has been TICKETED!

Another thing you will need to accomplish after receiving your DEA/FEA is to finalize the dates for your packouts. A visit with the PPO will do this. They will have you sign the paperwork for all your pack outs. Once you receive the email from the movers, I strongly suggest that you call them to verify the date AND the time of your pack outs. You will later on find out another bump in our PCS in this area.

12-20-12

Packers came today and picked up our expedited shipment, which are mostly kitchen and bedroom stuff. Annaliza also packed my work shirts and ties expecting that I might need them sooner.

12-21-12

Sold our Camry to Carmax. The whole process was pain-free. Glad to be able to get this done. My wife will need to go back to PPO at the base to have our car storage authorization letter changed from Camry to our Nissan Quest. This is the third day I have been having a stomach pain. Not feeling good at all, but trying to be productive.

12-22-12

Celebrating Jasmine’s 7th birthday at Seaworld San Diego’s Breakfast with Shamu and Santa. I posted some pictures on Facebook of things I wanted to give away: kids’ toddler bikes, printer, booster seats, propane gas tank. A few friends have come in to take some of these to include our TV. Time to replace it in Japan!

12-24-12

I called the moving company to get an idea on what time the movers will be coming in for our Household Goods packout on the 26th. It turns out, they don’t have our name on the list. I later found out that someone made a mistake with our paperwork, so we were not scheduled for a HHG pack out on the 26th. I asked if they could do both our HHG and NTS on the same day (27th) and they said Yes. Now, we are one day behind in our timeline, but we hope this will still work.

Going to my wife’s sister’s house tonight for a family Christmas dinner.

 12-25-12

Kids woke up early to open their presents. Afterwards, we started taking the decorations down. I have also started boxing up our electronics stuff. I have always saved their original boxes. Annaliza also started boxing some things up, so it will be quicker for the movers when they get here on Thursday.

12-26-12

I submitted a request from United States Postal Service to hold our mail for two weeks beginning Dec 29th. As soon as we get our new address in Japan (PSC box), I will submit a Change of Address request. USPS will then start forwarding all our mails to our PSC address in Yokosuka including all our mails held.

I also called DirecTV and Cox to disconnect our satellite TV and phone/Internet. One lesson learned: I should have called DirecTV for disconnection at least 5-7 business days beforehand to give time for the recovery kit to arrive, so that I can return our receivers. Dropping off the modem at Cox is easy. Just to make sure I get a receipt.

Went to Navy Federal Credit Union to deposit all our loose change in their coin machine. This service is free and the funds are directly deposited into your account. All you need is your  account number.  Other banks have this service as well (Coin Max charges a hefty fee over 9%, though it is free when you accept a gift card in return). Not all NFCU branches in the San Diego county has a coin machine and sometimes it is out of service as it breaks easily. I usually go to Gateway Center off Imperial Market or at Southland Plaza in the south bay. Neither Community Bank nor NFCU in Yokosuka has a change machine, so it is important to get this done in the states.

12-27-12

Movers are here and are doing the packing for the NTS first, and then pack all our HHG next. The main person says they’re scheduled to finish the job in 2 days. I said, “No way!” We are following a tight schedule and we need to turn the house in tomorrow, so they need to get everything done today. However, there’s only two of them! He made a call to his boss and promised that they will finish everything today since somehow someone made a mistake and we lost one day of packing. Around 5 pm, another group of movers came in and helped pack and load all our stuff in the vans. They got done at 7 pm. Cleaning commenced soon. Annaliza and I will be staying at a hotel tonight (kids at their cousins’ house).

12-28-12

Went to Kearny Mesa to drop off our Nissan Quest van at the storage facility. We brought our orders, ID and the authorization letter from the Navy. We made sure the van is clean inside and out, and nothing’s in the car except for the car manual. We also removed all the seat cloths and the gas is only a quarter tank full.

We will continue cleaning the house today for our final inspection and turn in at 3 pm.

====

What a day! Finally turned over the house and officially homeless again. Staying with some relatives tonight in South Siena. More errands tomorrow. No rest in sight. So tired… Thankful for all the help from wifey’s family!

12-29-12

We are checked in at Doubletree Hotel in downtown. We chose this hotel because of its proximity to the airport and their free shuttle service. We were dropped off by my in-laws.

While having dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, an employee came to say hi. She’s a regular matinee bingo player and she recognized me and wanted to say goodbye. She told my wife how good of a manager I was taking care of all their (bingo players) craziness. What a nice gift!

12-30-12

We arrived at the airport early and were already waiting at the gate, when we received a call from the travel agent. Their local office made a mistake by not issuing a ticket for Jasmine. The airline agent who checked us in overlooked this and issued her a boarding pass. Since the local office of CWS Sato Travel Agency has no office hours on the weekend, we have to stay put and sort this out with them in the morning. What a hassle. All the emotions are high and we are just very upset. There’s nothing else we can do but to stay for another day. The airline supervisor later on confirmed that we have been re-bookeed for a flight tomorrow and everyone has a ticket already. However, Annaliza still needs to call tomorrow to make sure we are set to go.

I have booked us at Sheraton Hotel and Marina, just across the street from the airport.

Lesson to be learned: Call the agent and the airline as soon as you get your itinerary to make sure everyone has been ticketed and there will not be any problem on your day of travel.

Now that you’re in Yokosuka

We arrived at Narita Airport’s Terminal 2. We took the airport shuttle bus to Terminal 1. We then proceeded to the North Wing and found the small DOD desk. If you get lost, just ask any airport employee and they can assist you. You can learn more here. We checked in with our IDs and orders. Then, we waited for about an hour for the next bus departure. The bus took us directly to Yokosuka base. The first stop is the PSD. We asked the driver to take us to the Navy Lodge and he complied.

We were met there by our sponsor. Annaliza went with him, so she could immediately check in at her command. The rest of our PCS story has gone smoothly as planned. Here are additional advice for the military families out there:

  • Once you checked in with your command, apply for the Dislocation Allowance. This does not come automatically.
  • Make sure you have your orders, DEA/FEA, passports and military IDs handy at all times. Make multiple copies of your order and DEA/FEA.
  • Make sure the spouse has a General Power of Attorney at hand. This will be required when the service member is unavailable to conduct business, such as setting up the phone or meeting with the housing counselor.
  • Make sure you have plenty of cash in your bank as a cushion. You will be paying most of your lodging and incidentals out of your pocket. For example, Navy Lodge will allow you to keep a tab for 10-day increments. At every 10th day, they will charge your credit card on file. Go to the front desk and ask for your receipt. You will take this to your command’s PSD or HRD for your TLA reimbursement. TLAs don’t come automatically. You will need to apply for a reimbursement. You will also need to take the housing assignment letter from your housing counselor even when you declined the first offer. This is needed for your TLA reimbursement.
  • Many would like to buy a car for convenience. While cars are not that expensive, keeping them on the road costs a lot. We bought a 2002 Honda Odyssey Obsolute edition for $2,600. Very clean and runs great! We got it from the lemon lot next to the Youth Center. However, there are a lot of expenses that go with owning a car. JCI or Japan Compulsory Insurance is paid after an inspection and could cost about a couple hundred dollars. Annual liability and collission insurance is paid up front and could cost around $400. Transferring and registering the title is about less than $100. The annual road tax is about a couple hundred dollars. Recycle fee and weight fee are also about a couple hundred dollars. We’re glad the former owner of the car already paid the recycle and weight fees.
  • Make sure to call the Child Development Center at 243-3219 or the Child and Youth Programs at 243-4079 to let them know that you have previously placed your kids on a projected wait list and you are now here in Yokosuka and you would like to place them on the active list. Leave them a good local contact number, which is probably your Navy Lodge Room number. Once you get your own cell phone and/or home phone, call them again to update your contact information. You will also need to call them at least every month to get where your kids are on the waiting list.
  • On the very next business day (except first Wednesday of the month), check in with the Housing Center next to the Navy Lodge, so that you can attend the housing brief. If you intend to live in a Military Family Housing or MFH, you will also need to attend the MFH brief held every afternoon. No kids are allowed, so either find a child care for this or only the military member can attend. Make sure you get your housing briefs done, so you may start house hunting should you decide to live off base. Don’t forget to bring your orders, FEA, and  your detaching endorsement from your previous command.
  • On the following Monday, you and your spouse and other dependents 18 years or older, will be required to attend the AOB/ICR held at the Community Readiness Center from 8 am, every day until Friday. Make sure you get enough time to drop your kids off at the child care. You will be issued a driver’s handbook to read and review. I strongly suggest that you study this well, so you will be able to pass the written exam on Friday afternoon. After you pass the written exam (80% passing score out of 50 questions), you will be scheduled for a driving test the following week. Driving test is not as tedious as stateside’s, but one thing I would like to advise you is to drive slowly. Really! Drive slow and carefully. Use your signal turn. In the US, practice pulling into a parking spot by backing. Again, though, drive slowly and carefully. I am proud to say that I got 100% on my driving test because of this (96% on the written portion). Once you get your license, you may start shopping for a car.
  • Don’t wait until you are required at the AOB/ICR to register at DBIDS. Go to a FAST Office, ISO Office by the main gate or the PSD, show them your orders, FEA and your IDs. My wife and I went to the FAST Office at the Community Readiness Center and we were assisted right away.
  • Make sure your stateside driver’s license is valid throughout your tour in Japan. This is a requirement.
  • If you think you will be eligible (e.g. nonworking spouse), go to the Community Readiness Center 4th floor and apply for a reduced fee or free school lunch for your school age kids. Bring your LES, orders and FEA. It will take about two weeks to process. If you are approved, bring this to the School Lunch window at the Navy Exchange main store across the hall from the Barber Shop. This is where you will pay to fund your kids’ school lunches if you want them to eat at the cafeteria.
  • Bring your orders, DEA, ID and all your no-fee passports to the passport section of PSD (3rd floor) and ask for an exit/re-entry stamp. Then, when you travel outside Japan and come back, you may use the “Re-Entry Permit” line at the immigration. I found that no one ever goes to this line. Gets you out of the airport quicker. However, you will need to go to the US Embassy in Tokyo to have your tourist passports stamped.
  • Go to fvap.gov and register to be an absentee voter (if you are eligible to vote).
  • Make sure you get your local post office box as soon as possible, so you may submit a Change of Address with the USPS to have your mails forwarded. You will get this from your command.
  • One thing many sailors and their families don’t know is that we have a Japanese-equivalent address. This is helpful when you expect letters or packages from a Japanese address or even from anywhere in the world. A direct Japan address is quicker than the FPO, AP address. Here it is:

Japan

238-0001

Yokosuka-shi, Kanagawa-ken,

1 Banchi Tomari-cho

  • Go to Tricareonline.com and update your information. Make sure to change your MTF to USNH Yokosuka. This way, you will be able to schedule appointments online.
  • Go to the Medical Records section of USNH and turn in all your medical records.
  • Call 243-8808 (9 y.o. and older) or 243-9501 (8 y.o. and younger) and make a dental appointment. There is a long wait list, so make sure you put your kids on it as soon as possible. Our Jason, 9 years old, was on the wait list since we arrived and he finally got a schedule to be seen at the end of the month. He will be going to the Primacy Care. Our Jasmine, on the other hand, since she’s only 7, she will be seen by the pedia-dentist and right now she is over 100th on the wait list. Yeah! That’s how long it is! So, put your kids on the wait list as soon as possible. Remember that you may need to make a separate schedule for any cleaning or additional dental services. Get a service slip from the dentist at the conclusion of the check up and show this to the front desk.
  • Since loaner furniture from the housing office will be limited in size esp. the beds, know that you will be loaned a queen bed for the couple and twin beds for the kids. I suggest that you bring the same size of beddings in your carry on, so you won’t have to buy them at the Exchange when you’re only going to need them for a few weeks esp. when the size of the beds you own in transit are different. I suggest that you buy cheap bed spreads and sheets from the thrift store and put them in your carry on. (Added on 01.31.13).
  • Did you know that you can go on a mini-getaway for free?  Learn about CREDO Japan and their wonderful retreats, which are considered a training evolution/no cost TAD with your command endorsement.  This is one benefit many members are not aware about.  Facebook.com/CREDOJapan

Here’s another PCS story from my sister-in-law, Rosette O., who now lives with her husband and daughter in Okinawa. They’re also former Yokosuka residents. You may find some more helpful tips. Click here.

“Overall, we were 110% prepared coming back to Japan thanks to the FFSC Relocation Workshop, MCCS Okinawa Relocation Personnel we communicated with -two months before we even packed out our belongings, went over the Newcomer Orientation handbook a month before we left ( yup, studied the driver license test during our plane ride), and followed our own MO on how to tackle our TONS of things to do and need to know’s.

… Main difference between Yokosuka and Okinawa is that we are on the ” green side” for this tour. I could tell from experience that MCCS is far more efficient & very willing to help military families than FFSC. Also, our housing is handled by the AF.” – Rosette O.

That’s about all the small pieces of information that I wish I knew ahead of time during our PCS to Yokosuka. I will constantly update this blog as I come up with new stuff to add.

Effective 8-23-14, I have disabled the comments.  You are instead invited to join a spin off group where you could post your questions and find answers about moving to and living in Yokosuka, at Facebook.com/groups/YokosukaPCS. Being in Facebook allows me to read and respond to any questions faster and also allows other experienced families to share their thoughts and tips.  Come join us!

I’m sure you will agree that we are bound to learn from either our own mistakes or from someone else’s. Just always be prepared. My friend and former colleague, Emeliza H., writes of her PCS, “We were actually prepared for the expected and unexpected. Way of military life and spouse.”

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43 thoughts on “Moving to Yokosuka: A PCS Guide for Military Families

  1. Thank you for the detailed and accurate post, James! I am headed there in about 30 days with my husband, and this has really given us some insight of what to expect when we arrive the the 27th!

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  3. thankyou so much james for the info. about to email you but i guess i could post some of my questions here about the transfer. for how long did it takes for you to process the housing. did it takes months or so? we would like to have an off-base housing. thankyou in advance.

    • Hi Abby! We live on-base and it only took us a little bit over a week from the time we attended the briefing until moving in. Off base shouldn’t be that difficult as well since you will be working with an agent. I spoke to someone about this and he said it only took them about a couple of days to look for 3 houses to choose from. The only challenge there is the reduced hours for the Japanese housing counselor at the Housing Center, but I don’t see it to be a big problem. That only means that the Japanese section closes at around 2:30 pm while the rest of the housing center closes later in the afternoon. I highly suggest sending in your HEAT survey.

      Feel free to post any more questions. I’d be happy to help. Thanks for reading. I really appreciate it!

  4. thankyou james. I’m worried coz some said it took them monthss (1-3months) until they got done with the housing. i wonder why. can i process everything in behalf of my husband using SPA? coz we’re not so sure about the ship’s schedule for deployment so i would process it myself if i can.

    • I know people who were staying in the lodge for months because they wait for a townhouse in Yokosuka (on base). SPA is very specific in nature. Unless it is for housing purposes, I suggest you ask your husband for a General POA instead. You might need it more often if he will be unavailable, such as registering a car, signing up for a phone, etc.Have you visited JapanBases.com yet? People there are extremely helpful and can answer more of your questions and perhaps you can get more info about off-base house hunting experiences. I still post questions there and get useful answers. Don’t get too worried about housing. You don’t need the additional stress since the PCS itself is already stressful. As soon as you get in, proceed to the housing office on the very next day to get started with your briefing where a lot of your questions will be answered as well.

  5. Thank you James! We have orders to Iwakuni at the beginning of 2014 but I’m sure most of this applies. I’m bookmarking this and coming back to refer to it.

    • Thank you so much. You have plenty of time to prepare for the move. I heard recent stories of military families being sent to Japan on such a short notice (1-2 months heads up). All the best to you and I hope the process will be as smooth as a breeze. Thanks again for reading and commenting!

  6. Thank you James!!!! This has been very helpful. My husband has orders for Yokosuka for August 2013. We have so much work to do. I had no idea of where to start, but thanks to your timeline I now have a general idea. Thanks again

    • HI Shannon! You are very much welcome. I’m glad I was able to keep up in compiling all these information. Thank you, too, for reading and for leaving a comment. I do appreciate that! Take care and good luck on the move.

  7. Hi James,
    Your blog is so informative! My husband is a DOD civilian who just got hired at Yokosuka a few weeks ago. We still have not received word on when we will be moving but are excited for this adventure. I’ve been scouring the web looking for information about housing in the Japanese community and am interested in the RPP homes. Have you had any experience with this and the process of getting set up?

    • Hi Kim:

      Thanks for reading. When you report to the Housing Office, request an appointment for an RPP counselor. We were interested, but the only unit available at that time was a little bit small. If we were not given a housing just next to the elementary school where our kids could just walk, I would have opted living in Ikeda-cho (RPP). The only big downside that I could think of is the hassle of entering/leaving the base during rush hours. Hope your move will be as smooth and easy as possible for you guys. Welcome to Yokosuka soon!

    • When you get to the airport immigration, show your orders, family entry approval, and military IDs. The immigration officer will stamp your passports with SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement). This will serve as your visa and will be valid until the date indicated in the orders. This date will also be stamped in your passport. Then, as soon as you are able, go get the Exit/Re-entry Stamps at the PSD. Thanks for reading!

    • As long as your name is included in the FEA, you should be fine. You won’t need a separate visa issued by a Japanese embassy. During our first tour in 2006 I was also not a citizen yet.

  8. Thank you for all the great information. This has really helped me start making an overview for our future move. We have plenty of time but I really want to get a head start on as much as I can. Especially since I have a C-school before we leave and so I will be 9 hours away from my family right before we actually move.

    • Hi Sara! Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. I wish you well in your move. Don’t hesitate to ask some questions along the way. I’d be happy to answer them as best as I could.

      James

  9. Excellent website, it should be included in the top ten things for someone to look at when moving OCONUS! A quick question, how long did it take for your accompanied shipment (express shipment?) and household good to arrive? Any nasty surprises? I am going as a DoD civilian (finalizing the offer) and we want to have an idea of how things would take to get to us. This might helps us decide if we will bring extra stuff on the airplane.

    • Hey Sam!

      Thanks for the nice comment! Our express was delivered on Jan 25th and the HHG on Feb 12th. There were no surprises. An inspector came by to check how the delivery was going. Everything went smooth for us. I wish the same for you and your family. Happy Holidays and thanks again!

      James

      • Thanks for the information. I am amazed that the express shipment took so long? anything that delayed it? As my spouse is japanese, I hope to be able to find an off base house within the first week. Other than having an address quickly, is there anything else I can do ahead of time to speed the delivery of my goods (at least the express shipment)? From the sound of it, I have to bring extra boxes on the airplane with more urgent things.

      • Yeah, it really takes about a month for the express. I’m not sure what caused any delay, if any, or if there’s anything we can do to speed up the process. What I could think of is to ship some stuff yourself esp. the ones you will be using for your work and take it as a tax deduction for business expense. Ask your future place of work for their PCS address. House hunting shouldn’t also be any problem. Just be aware of the ever-changing housing policy here on base. Right now, they have a policy of 90% occupancy rate on base before any off-base housing is approved. What I heard this week from the grapevine (unofficial sources) is that we are at a 95% capacity, so off base assignment is being authorized.

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  11. This has been helpful as my husband was just informed by his detailed today that our orders were moved up 3 months. So I have to start planning now. I have a couple of questions. As of right now we have under 8 months till he reports to his new command. He leaves for school in June and won’t be back till a month before he is due to report in at Yokosuka. So can I start the moving process with housing without him since he will be in Great Lakes and I will still be here in San Diego? How far out from the report date to the new command should I give military housing our intent to move notice? For the AOB/ICR is there child care provided? As for schools how soon did your children start after your arrival? What would I need to get from my daughters school before the move? I think that’s about it for now.

    • Maureen:

      Yes, start the moving process as early as possible as soon as you have received your orders. Make sure to have a General Power of Attorney at hand. About the intent to move, did you mean giving notice to Yokosuka housing? You may send the HEAT application anytime, but you will still need to report to the housing office on the very next business day after you have arrived. Yes, free child care is provided for the AOB/ICR through the Youth Center, Child Development Center and Child Development Homes, though spaces are limited. That’s why it is important for your sponsor to call these centers ahead of time to make reservations. Information on that is contained in the blog. As soon as you arrive, register your kids for school and they may start within a couple of days after the counselors have met with you. Your kids’ admin office at your departing school will give you a transfer packet that is sealed and must be opened by the receiving school only.

      Thanks for reading and have a smooth PCS!

      James

  12. James, i just wanted to say that your post has helped me organize all the important things we need from the start. I simply typed in on google, “We got orders to Japan…Now what?” and bam!! your post. =) We got pushed back a few months to PCS due to the shutdown and I am so relived. I thought i was way ahead of the game too (thanks to your post), but now july is coming right around the corner. I am starting to get a lot of butterflies in my tummy again. We have everything till the non passport fee. Next is the actual packout date. but I do want to ask you. What is that family entry approval and were do we get it? Also, in your sisters attached website, she mentioned unemployment claim interview. I am a licensed vocational nurse here in San Diego, I have a very stable job at sharp hospital, but since we have this pcs…i am forced to leave and cut back at work…..what should i do? Any advice I’d truly appreciate.

    • Hello Ren. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and for letting me know how my timeline has been helpful to you. I really appreciate all the feedback that I get.

      The Family Entry Approval (FEA) aka Dependent Entry Approval (DEA) looks like your spouse’s military orders, but it lists the dependents who are approved to join the military member on an overseas tour of duty. Pretty much, this is your letter authorizing your move. Without this, you won’t be able to go to Japan. You won’t be able to ship your household goods, and you won’t be able to use the DoD schools on base. Ask your husband to get this from his command. I am not too familiar with the process, but my wife routed a transfer information through her chain of command before she was given a FEA/DEA. This is a very important piece of paper. You will also need to show this at the immigration in the airport.

      About Unemployment Insurance, good luck with that. The Employment Development Department (EDD) of the State of California handles unemployment insurance. In theory, we, military spouses, are covered with unemployment insurance when our spouses receive military orders overseas and we must move with them. However, there is one provision wherein EDD must be able to verify jobs availability overseas to make sure insured dislocated workers (us) are able to find jobs. The problem there is that they do not have established system to check that. So, pretty much my claim for unemployment insurance was denied. I was given a date/time to appeal the denial via a teleconference, but the letter got delayed and I received it after the fact. It was a hassle I was not prepared nor interested to take, so I just decided to let it be and not claim unemployment insurance when it could have been helpful to us since I lost a high paying job and then government sequestration came that resulted to freezes in hiring here on base.

      My advise is to go to edd.ca.gov and explore your options. Go ahead and apply for the unemployment insurance and make sure you have a temporary mailing address that could forward all letters from EDD to you here in Japan, so you won’t miss important notices. However, if you think you can land a job right away (which I don’t doubt), I won’t even bother unemployment as it involves a lot of reading and understanding government rules and regulations. As a start, here is a link to US Jobs in Japan:

      http://cnic.navy.mil/regions/cnrj/om/human_resources/US_Jobs.html

      Hope you find the answers you were looking for and welcome to Japan soon!

  13. Thank you James for such an easy to read, helpful advice blog. My husband just received orders for Yokosuka for May of 2015. Two questions if you an help please: 1. I have two pets, I hear this is a huge problem. I have a full size labradoodle (90lbs) and a cat. I don’t mind applying to live off base, but I have heard it is next to impossible to rent with animals, is this true?
    2. The next issue is that my daughter will be turning 23, so therefore will no longer be a Navy dependent while there (shes completing online college because we live in a remote Island right now). My question is, what do parents do when their dependents turn non-dependent while stationed overseas? I’m thinking she may need to apply for an immigrant Visa with us being her sponsor? I have a headache already thinking about it! I have tried contacting Japanese immigration attorneys, but no response back yet, probably due to the fact that most requests involve already living in Japan, and I am not there yet. any advice on what to do from here?

    • Hi Tracey:

      I apologize for not responding sooner as I have been caught up with work. Unfortunately, I am inexperienced or with limited knowledge when it comes to pets and college-age kids as I do not have either one. What I know is that pets are not allowed on some housing types (such as towers) esp. dogs. You are also right that some off-base housings do not accept pets, though some do. The caveat is that you will never know if you will be allowed to live off base unless on-base housing is at its 90-95% capacity. CNIC web site currently advises incoming residents not to bring any pets until they find if their assigned housing can accept pets. Not very helpful, huh?

      I also know just a couple families who had to send their children back to the states to study when they turned 23. I do not think there is an exception to the rule unless the child is physically or mentally unable to support himself or herself. Even when you apply for a student/immigrant visa, the issue will be your child’s eligibility to stay on a government-issued Military Family Housing unit.

      Other remote possibility will be for her to get hired stateside for a civil service employment in Japan, so she can have her own transportation agreement and housing eligibility. I know it’s a long shot either.

      One web site that I really love, JapanBases.com, has hundreds of members who share their wealth of experience, but the site has been down for months now.

      I really am sorry for not being able to help you with much needed information. I hope anyone who reads this can share their thoughts.

      Good luck on the move!

      James

      • This was a timely yet scary question! My husband has orders to Yokosuka this fall, we just found out last week! But we have two cats to take with us…it’s kinda scary to think we either shouldn’t take them at all, or risk taking them. I’m a little overwhelmed about the who process. We’ve PCS’d before, but this is our first overseas move. I appreciate finding this blog, I’m sure it will come in handy!

      • Michelle:

        I didn’t get a chance to Thank You for reading and for your comment. Hope your PCS will also be hassle-free!

      • Hi James! Thank you so much for all of your help, I just realized I never thanked you and responded back! To update my situation, currently, my daughter has opted to apply to T.U.J. (Temple University) in Tokyo for the semester coinciding with our move. The plan is, we are going to opt for off base housing, I understand that having a pet will allow you to choose off-base housing if no on-base town homes are available (which is likely going to be the case). I just hope the rules don’t yet again change by the time we pcs this Spring. It;s such a balancing act!
        In looking online for off-base housing, I’ve come to realize obtaining a house with a cat and a dog is not going to be easy at all. I hope the use of the base affiliated Realtor companies can help us get a contract in order. I also understand additional deposits can be offered to help persuade the home owners to accept pets, so I am going to keep my fingers crossed.
        I will keep you updated, and maybe it can also help someone in the same situation.
        Cheers,
        Tracey

      • Hi James, I had one other question, (now that I am thinking of it!), Do you know if on-base housing is currently at or above the 90-95% occupancy rate?

      • Hi Tracey:

        Good to hear from you, and sorry for not being able to read your comment right away. I have been away and busy. Thank you for the update!

        Since my favorite site, JapanBases.com, has seem to have permanently shut down, I am left with no other online resource to refer to. So, I decided to create a Facebook group where military and DOD families can come together and provide support regarding moving to and living in Yokosuka. I hope you could share your experiences there and help other families as well. It can be found at Facebook.com/groups/YokosukaPCS.

        Right now, I am not sure what the current occupancy rate is. I will ask around and get back to you on that.

        Thanks again!

        James

  14. This blog explains everything and very informative. My husband received his orders yesterday and he is about to start the processing for our move. I have a question regarding the dental for Overseas Screening. I needed to have my teeth fix but we don’t have enough money for it because we had to pay a lot for my daughter’s teeth. I’m worried that this might be a problem when we go for our dental screening. Are they strict in regards to Dental or medical screening (I know i’m healthy so no problem with that)? Can you share how was your dental screening done? Thank you in advance.

    • Hi Grace!

      Thanks for the feedback and for reading. We had our dental care done by our civilian provider. For me, I needed to have surgery done to remove two impacted teeth. It didn’t become a problem during the screening. Medical/Dental screening was easy as long as you have complete records and have no immediate medical/dental issues that might require medevac (I believe) during your tour. If it is something that the naval hospital could do, it shouldn’t be any problem.

      • Thank you so much for the advice. We just started processing our papers and it’s stressful for me because i’m not up to date with my medical and dental. As for my husband and daughter they are fine.
        Two more questions to ask from you 1) I was reading the NAVMED 1300/1 and DD FORM 2807-1, do I have to fill this out now or once the copies of medical and dentals records are on hand. I tried calling the NTC number in San Diego there’s no answer.
        2) how did you apply it? Is it online as what the instruction say but there is a charge?

        I’m sorry that I have too many questions. I just can’t get answers from anywhere and we live far from San Diego.

      • Hi Grace:

        The DD Form 2807-1 will be filled out by your primary care managers (both medical and dental). The NAVMED 1300/1 will be filled out by the doctor who will be conducting the overseas screening at NTC. I suggest you make an appointment soon to get your annual physical and semi-annual dental screening done and at the same time give your doctors the form, so they could fill it out. Once you have all your forms and your medical records on hand, your spouse (the service member) will need to physically drive up to NTC. They will check all your records to make sure it is complete before you are given the actual overseas screening appointment. On the appointment day, everyone needs to be present. There is no charge for this. Hope this helps!

        My other suggestion is to tackle things one at a time. Don’t get too overwhelmed 🙂

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